Is AOL Selling MapQuest?

Kara Swisher is reporting that MapQuest is one of the AOL “assets” potentially for sale. I’ve argued in the past that MapQuest is one of AOL’s great local assets, if not the single most important one. However, perhaps the feeling at AOL is “game over” and that the company can’t compete with the Google Maps juggernaut or Microsoft’s deep pockets.

Here’s what Swisher says:

[A]ccording to sources inside and outside AOL, one of the next candidates for sale could be its MapQuest online map service.

Purchasers for the service that provides mapping and directions, sources said, are likely to be other mapping giants, especially Microsoft (MSFT).

Why would Microsoft buy MapQuest when it has all the mapping assets it needs? The only reason would be for the brand and traffic, which amounts to 45 or so million monthly uniques. However Bing Maps is the brand that Microsoft is seeking to rally around (it recently replaced Multimap in the UK with “Bing Maps” accordingly). So who else might buy it? Nokia, which owns Navteq (unlikely). What about TomTom, which owns Teleatlas? That’s also probably unlikely but maybe not as part of a “diversification” play now that Google Navigation threatens to drive GPS device makers into increasingly marginal status.

If in fact it’s true that MapQuest is for sale, it would find a buyer given that it’s one of the top brands in travel and navigation.

It strikes me however that a company seeking to be a force in local or that sees local as a “key strategic area” is probably making a pretty significant mistake selling the top online mapping brand and the number two destination in maps.

If it turns out that MapQuest does sell we can later write the story of how this leading mapping site was complacent for too long around investing in the product and took both the brand and the usage for granted until the momentum of events was already trending in Google’s favor.

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9 Responses to “Is AOL Selling MapQuest?”

  1. Sebastien Provencher Says:

    I don’t believe they will sell Mapquest. If they did, it would be a enormous mistake given their local ambition.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    I agree obviously

  3. Randy Jackson Says:

    Hard to believe that just last year all the discussions were on whether Yahoo or Microsoft would purchase MapQuest while it still was relevent. After yet another year of being starved of development $$ by AOL in which time Google quickly surpassed it (www.hitwise.com) thus pushing MQ to also-ran status, the future looks grim for the product division. IMO, they’ll probably remain with spun-off AOL where they will continue to be bled to death and eventually sold in a firesale at which point the MapQuest name will be retired. Another classic business failure to be studied in future business classes.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    I fear you may be right. I was told that Armstrong wants each product or group to stand on its own. However that has not been the way at G and M with Maps. MapQuest needs attention and investment if it is to remain relevant and not fade into obsolescence.

  5. AOL Returns As Independent Company Says:

    [...] or sites occupies a leadership position. MapQuest was surpassed this year by Google and there are rumors it may even be sold; I’m not sure whether AIM still tops the US IM market, it [...]

  6. Next Up: MapQuest ‘Powered by Bing’? « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] Maps will come in to “power” MapQuest the site. So rather than sell the property as was previously rumored, AOL will retain the brand and the traffic and outsource the back end technology, as Yahoo is doing [...]

  7. MapQuest Integrates Citysearch Content Says:

    [...] was rumored that MapQuest might be for sale; however that appears to no longer be true. I speculated that [...]

  8. Randy Jackson Says:

    It appears the MapQuest brand is being left for dead. It lacks any proactive buzz within social media sites and the established database has moved away in droves. This quick and large volume migration to Google Maps (as shown by MQ’s near collapse on HitWise rating charts) indicates users now find MQ to be irrelvant.
    As a previous exclusive user of MQ, I fail to remember the last marketing message of any type that was put out by the company. With a database as large as what theirs was, you would assume that someone would have been proactive in mining it for future and sustained growth. Nope.

  9. AOL Bings Mapquest? | Click2Map Blog Says:

    [...] Fair enough. However, I agree more with Greg Sterling when he says: [...]

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