No executive job is safe in Tim Armstrong’s AOL, where he is still cleaning house and putting his own team into place. Even Bill Wilson, the architect of AOL’s let-a thousand-blogs-bloom content strategy which is a cornerstone of AOL’s new approach, is now being replaced as president of AOL Media by Armstrong’s former New York City Google colleague David Eun. “In a turnaround situation we are doing whatever is necessary to make the company successful,” Armstrong told me in a brief phone conversation.
At Google, Eun most recently was in charge of content partnerships for YouTube and Google overall. At AOL, he will be president of AOL Studios as well, which comes from AOL’s recent acquisition of StudioNow. Armstrong expects Eun to bring more video to AOL sites. “You will see an expanded amount of video,” he says, “video we produce ourselves and video partnerships.” In particular, Armstrong wants Eun to “supercharge” content partnerships. Eun will also oversee Seed, AOL’s content management system.
Armstrong says he has no more plans to make more changes to AOL’s top ranks. He’s been putting his own team into place since he took the job, bringing in Brad Garlinghouse as president of Internet and mobile communications to replace longtime exec David Liu and more recently hired former Google engineer Jeff Raynar to head up engineering in New York. At the same time, CTO Ted Cahall and many other vets have departed. And AOL is still in the middle of laying off a third of its workforce, so the executive turmoil might not be over.
Wilson will remain through May. “Bill has done a great job,” says Armstrong, “and I will continue to lean on him.” Wilson was in charge of the AOL homepage and its 80 Mediaglow properties, including Engadget, DownloadSquad, and Joystiq. But the new properties have not grown fast enough to account for the decline in the homepage traffic. AOL’s overall visitor numbers have done pretty much nothing all year, ending at 111 million U.S. unique visitors in December, 2009, versus 110 million a year ago. And that was only after a nice uptick in December (see comScore chart below). “The key metric for our content organization is unique visitor growth,” says Armstrong.
Will Eun do any better? Armstrong sets expectations low, warning that the overall numbers “may show up or down in terms of trading properties in and out,” but that what he will be focussed on is winning audience in the right categories.