AOL doesn’t have a chief product officer, but if it did, that person would be Brad Garlinghouse, the president of Applications and Commerce who heads up AOL’s Silicon Valley office. As has been widely reported, Garlinghouse has decided to leave AOL. This is not good news.
Garlinghouse oversees many of the best product teams at AOL, including those filled with folks from some of the startups AOL has acquired in recent years. (TechCrunch was also acquired by AOL, but we are not part of Garlinghouse’s organization). AOL still has a collection of products that are not media properties, including AIM, Mail, and newer mobile apps. But it’s not clear exactly how they fit in what is increasingly becoming a pure online media company.
Just look at the new AIM preview that came out Wednesday. It’s a lovely product, but it includes a strange news feed that features only Huffington Post Media channels (including TechCrunch, I should add). It kind of makes you feel like AIM is being used to push more pageviews instead of to solve a communication problem.
As Om Malik writes, “the company is focusing more of its resources on “media” … and less on applications.” It is not the direction Garlinghouse would take the company. And, in truth, media is becoming more app-like. Editors and engineers will need to figure out how to work together to create the most compelling media experiences.