New AOL CEO Tim Armstrong takes the stage at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Pasadena, California this morning for an early interview by David Kirkpatrick.
Armstrong has been on a bit of a road show recently, talking in vague terms to press about the future of AOL after the spinoff from Time Warner. Erick Schonfeld sat down with him last week for an interview, and I’ve done my own speculation around AOL’s go forward strategy as well.
So what is AOL’s next move? Kirkpatrick starts off with a great question – why did you leave Google to take control of an “also ran”?
“AOL offers one of the biggest opportunities on the Internet,” he responded. AOL’s has a valuable worldwide brand and with a lot of work AOL can be very successful.
Kirkpatrick says that blogs (moi?) have speculated that AOL can dominate in certain areas. Asks Tim if that is accurate. Armstrong responds that there are lots of white space areas, wants to focus on
– Content (CMS, scaled content)
– Display advertising
– Local and mapping (Mapquest is huge brand)
– messaging (email, IM, SMS)
– AOL Ventures.
No mention of Bebo.
The strategy won’t be “get them on and make them look at ads,” which is AOL’s old strategy, he says.
On the effectiveness of display advertising to run a business: “Consumer behavior continues to change drastically online…monetization on the Internet will continue to go up…It’s under monetized as a whole.”
Armstrong says they’ll take a “silicon valley” approach to content. Google took a systematic approach to building the plumbing for ads, he says. AOL will do the same for content.
Tomorrow Armtrong will speak to AOL employees about the end of the 100 day review process that he began when he first came to AOL. On that process: “I spent a lot of time traveling and listening to employees and partners. The 100 days is about strategy. What can we be strong at. And what is the structure behind the strategy? Finally, what are the revenue and cost plans for the companies?”
Kirkpatrick digs deeper: “Tell me how AOL can win.”
Armstrong’s answer is that AOL has a great brand, but it needs improvement. They’re geared up for that.
On AOL’s social networking future (Bebo): “Theoretically social networking and messaging work together well. But you have to have the right products…Bebo may be more successful under AOL Ventures with it’s own P&L.”