TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington kicked off his interview with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong at Disrupt Europe with the obligatory ragging on Armstrong for firing him, but eventually, he moved on to ask if there was “anything interesting” going on with AOL’s business.
In response, Armstrong offered a quick overview of what he sees as the core areas of the company — building “awesome brands”, building “awesome brand ad products”, and “investing in platforms as service partners”. On the brand front, Armstrong pointed to TechCrunch and our Disrupt conference. (AOL owns TechCrunch.) On the platform front, he said, “We have one fo the fastest growing video platforms in the world right now.”
“We are a media technology company,” he said, later adding, “AOL is not your father’s AOL anymore.”
Armstrong also said that he’s interested in connecting AOL with outside innovation — that’s why he’s at Disrupt, and in fact, he invited entrepreneurs, as well as folks in the brand and advertising business, to email him when they have ideas for AOL. (Armstrong insisted that that’s his “real” email address.) And he said AOL will be holding its own internal Disrupt events and that Arrington will be speaking at them.
As for AOL’s local news initiative Patch, which announced significant cuts over the summer, Armstrong repeated that Patch was “restructured” over the summer, with less successful markets shut down and AOL pursuing “a bunch of different product fixes in core markets.”
At one point, Armstrong actually turned the tables and started interviewing Arrington (who, by the way, apparently has an “open job invitation” — Armstrong’s words — to return to TechCrunch). He asked how Disrupt Europe differs from other Disrupt events, and Arrington responded that he sees a similar “innocence” in Berlin that he did in Silicon Valley in 2004 or 2005, before “the millions of marketing people and biz dev people” showed up: “Silicon Valley is a strange place to me now.”
Perhaps the highlight of the panel, however, was when it opened to audience questions and a fan of Arrington’s took the stage.