First AOL Q1 Luge Update Since HuffPo Acquisition: We've Got Work To Do (No Kidding)

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It’s rare that we get access to insider information as AOL employees here at TechCrunch HQ, so we have to rely on our mad reporting skills and the strength of our inboxes in order to figure out the goings on over in Dulles and at 770 Broadway. We’ve received this “Winter Luge and HuffPost Quick Update” email multiple times today, but none through any legitimate AOL channels. So I guess this means we can take off our AOL hats and just repost it (yay pageviews!).

In the email, AOL head honcho Tim Armstrong welcomes content maven Arianna Huffington to the AOL family with colorful exaggerated reference to the over 4000 articles written about the AOL/Huffington Post acquisition last week, apparently signifying an AOL comeback. The email goes on to explore how close we are to our very ambitious Winter Luge Q1 goals which are indeed very very ambitious.

The prognosis? Not so close. We’ve got a lot of work to do AOL Lugers! There’s a lot of juicy stuff here, but for the sake of brevity let’s just take on our goal of double the pageviews to the AOL homescreen by March 31st.

The email trumpets a 6% traffic increase of 50 Million homepage pageviews from December to January. Working backwards based on those numbers, the AOL Homepage got approximately 833 million views in December, 883 million views in January, and we’re aiming to hit around 1.66 billion monthly views in just two months. (I’m assuming these are internal AOL analytics since the Comscore numbers for the AOL Welcome Screen actually show a decrease in views.)

Damn. Is this in any way possible to achieve? Well we could amp up IRL marketing, pick Huffington’s brain on maximizing search traffic and social while we wait about a month for The Huffington Post’s HSR to clear and work on redirection among all branded properties (Hi Josh). But even if we increased at rate of 10% a month, for the next six months, we still wouldn’t hit that number.

Sprechen sie AOL Way?

Full email below.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Armstrong, Tim
Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 1:23 PM
Subject: Winter Luge and HuffPost Quick Update
To: “Armstrong, Tim”

AOLers -

We are on the comeback and if the 4,000 articles on AOL and The
Huffington Post over the last week didn’t send that message, nothing
will. As we discussed last year, opportunities are opportunities
because not everyone can see them and we now have an even bigger
opportunity in front of us. Arianna Huffington and the team at The
Huffington Post see the same vision we see and we will accelerate
together.

Staying right on course, AOL is aiming to be the largest high-quality
content producer for digital media – locally, regionally, nationally,
and globally. By producing great content for consumers and offering
differentiated advertising solutions (Project Devil and Local), we
will have a profitable, growing, and sustainable business model built
for where the web is going. This week, there are a number of areas we
will begin planning this week in connection with the deal closing, and
as an employees-first culture, we wanted to share some of the areas of
opportunity we will be looking at:

· Journalist / Creative Culture Investment: We have a big
opportunity to create the next evolution of the content culture.
Creativity has been a big part of the AOL comeback and it will be an
even bigger part of the future with The Huffington Post Media Group.

· Local to Regional to National to Global: We can help
consumers and marketers from the world they live in to the house they
live in. AOL and The Huffington Post are uniquely structured to
create the new way information gets shared across the globe and across
your town. AOL’s large, local reach and focus/investment in mobile
platforms are extremely powerful when coupled with The Huffington
Post’s global reach.

· Video: AOL has invested in video production and distribution
around the globe over the last year and we have strengthened our
position in many markets. The Huffington Post was about to invest
heavily in video—now our combined company has the ability to create a
video version of The Huffington Post and continue growing video across
AOL properties; this offers our partners many valuable options.

· Brand Advertising: Project Devil went live on the AOL.com
homepage yesterday and we are just beginning to see the impact of the
brand ads movement online. The Huffington Post and AOL have combined
audiences that index very high on education and affluent income levels
and we can have a significant offering in the advertising market. If
you want to reach the most valuable consumers one-on-one, we’ll be the
place. It’s time for brands to step into the web and we have the
first and best step for them to make.

· Culture of Help: AOL’s number one value is to help others
and we have done a great job of that with our volunteer days and our
homepage cause marketing support. The Huffington Post has provided a
platform for many of the causes and cause leaders to blog and has a
full-time cause marketing team and many partnerships. Together, we can
help drive the civic-minded solutions the world needs.

· North Star Goals: Our goals are still the same and will be
accelerated by this deal – grow unique visitors, grow brand
advertising, scale locally – and underline those three goals with
video and mobile.

Over the course of this week, we will start to sketch out the future
of the combined companies. Our executive team and Arianna’s team are
working closely together on planning the integration of the two
companies and we would expect to move quickly with any changes once
the deal is closed.

We need to all remain laser-focused on our Winter Luge goals. We are
at the halfway point in our ambitious plan for the winter and I wanted
to give you a quick status update on what we have achieved so far:

Grow ad sales revenue by a double-digit increase—Entire sales and
sales support team has been trained on AOL Way for Advertising and
presales has been reorganized to line up to the top 100 accounts.

Double homepage traffic—Grew monthly PVs on AOL.com by 50MM (6%) in
January vs. December and late night grew 212%. Minutes per visitor per
month have increased 33% yoy to 40.4 minutes in January—this leads all
competitors (MSN – 36.5 minutes; Yahoo – 32.9 minutes; NYT – 30
minutes); we still have a lot of work to do, but this is a huge win.

AOL Way for Media—Entire media team has been trained on the AOL Way
and the operations team has created great reporting tools to track our
progress.

Achieve 99.9% reliability for email—Thoroughly analyzed all components
of the mail system and have started implementing a series of fixes and
process improvements. The team is working on the V2 architecture for
long term reliability and functionality improvements.

Double Patch engagement—Visits/UV grew 6% in January while UVs grew 32%.

Ads/Content Platform + Devil everywhere—Only 24 Blogsmith migrations
remain; Seed 2.0 in Alpha; Dynamic ad sizing for Devil 2.0 in
production. We are now focusing on implementing AdLearn 5.0, improving
our DSP solution, and making booking an ad campaign 70% faster

Close partnership / M&A deals inline with our strategy—GoViral and
Huffington Post deals signed; also partnerships with Everyday Health,
SportingNews and Move.com signed.

Culture luge—We have made great strides in growing our culture of
performance and accountability, we have celebrated our successes with
the weekly Attitude Alerts and Accelerator Thursdays and are
furthering our culture of teamwork as we moved the New York office to
sit in their teams and towns.

Recruit top talent—Job applications for open positions have gone WAY
up, the world is watching and is noticing the huge cultural shift; we
have filled 33% of the top 12 open positions.

We have accomplished a lot in the Winter Luge in the first half and
need to maintain this sharp focus through the end. Let’s finish the
Luge strong!

As we discussed at the all-hands meeting a few weeks ago, we have a
long-term vision for this space and we will continue to move AOL into
a leadership position in the digital content business. The comeback
is on and we’re going to deliver to our consumers, customers,
partners, shareholders – and most importantly – you. Let’s keep
getting it done and have fun doing it. Go AOL

- TA

Image above from actual AOL Luge event.

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