In the flurry of 100 days interviews that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong gave he identified “local” as one of the company’s new organizational groups and a key strategic area. The company is now divided into content production, the display-ad network, local information and services, communications and AOL Ventures.
AOL has from the early days been involved with local and has a host of local properties. Among them:
- Real Estate
- Local search (a constantly changing site, now a YP-like property)
- Yellow pages
It also now owns Patch the local community site network.
This broad mix of verticals and destinations seems to be consistent with Armstrong’s new “we love fragmentation” strategy. From his PaidContent interview:
I think we have a basic philosophy here, which is the web is going to get more fragmented over time. People are going to figure out how to serve unique audiences in faster, better, more concrete informational ways and that is a strategy that fits very well with what we have been looking at with Media Glow properties and other things. Fragmentation on the internet is good for us. We believe in it and we’re riding that trend.
AOL can use these various properties as “front doors into the network” for advertisers and consumers. There are probably something like 100 million users distributed over AOL’s local properties at any given time (my guesstimate).
At one point Jason Calacanis was considering starting a local blog network before AOL bought Weblogs, Inc. Patch would appear to be a more sophisticated return to that strategy. But how far will Patch be built out? Will it go national? My guess is that’s on the whiteboard; although executing well on that strategy will take a lot of effort.
AOL Yellow Pages has long been a front end or traffic distribution tool for third party YP publishers. I wouldn’t expect that to change.
Given that Armstrong has created a division within the company around local we can expect more emphasis and product innovation. But what precise form will that take? And do you think that AOL will become a true force in local?
If you were consulting for AOL (I’m not) what would you advise them to do?