Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Flashback: I used to be a journalist with AOL

So hearing AOL say they want to hire more journos has an odd frisson for me... I spent five years running AOL's technology journalism in the UK, which at that point had about the same audience as a Sunday newspaper but sometimes struggled to be taken seriously as an outlet (and made companies who saw AOL as a rival uncomfortable about giving us access to information about things far removed from online services). AOL's appeal went beyond being training wheels for the Internet; our users came for content but stayed for community and that was something AOL was uniquely positioned to provide with its community volunteer program. After five years AOL US management decided to dismantle our journalism and rely on partner feeds that were available elsewhere, and to gut the volunteer program, leaving the service with neither content nor community (I often quote the editorial director who told us that 'advertising is content too'). If all you are is training wheels for the Web, you're going to get outgrown.

There's no reason that AOL can't be a content provider again; hiring lots of journalists is a great way to do it. I'd love to write for AOL again because it still has an impressive reach across a wide audience, and either way I wish them luck. So many people put so much hard work into AOL, but management needs to stay smart and remember the value of content depends on valued content creators.
Tags: aol, history, journalism, technology

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