by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2008 5:00pm
As part of Time Warner's earnings conference call, the company noted that it will be splitting AOL into two parts: cutting the rapidly shrinking access subscriber business from the content/advertising business. Many folks are assuming this is in preparation to finally sell AOL off. Of course, like so much that AOL/Time Warner has done over the years, this is too little too late. Remember the happy days in the 90's when AOL would come out with a press release announcing every million new subscribers? Funny that they don't do that for every million lost subscribers... However, it's been those subscribers that have hindered AOL's ability to adjust. For years, they were afraid to do too much with free content to lose that subscription base, even as that subscription base was figuring out that they could already go elsewhere and get the same content for free (and buy access for much less). So, when the company finally adopted a free model, it was too late to simply throw the doors open. People just weren't that interested. The same is true now. Time Warner had a chance to salvage AOL years back, if they had aggressively tied it to a broadband strategy rather than competing with itself and giving lip service to a more complete strategy which never actually seemed to happen. Finally separating out the dwindling access business is hardly going to catapult the rest of the business forward, as most people have simply moved on to other sources. While the sheer size of AOL's traffic can hold it up for a while (and may make it an attractive buyout for someone looking only to buy some traffic), it's lack of innovation and growth have pretty much doomed it to also-ran status.
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