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Reactions to AOL/Time-Warner Merger 221

"AOL and Time Warner Merge" has been a huge front-page headline in most U.S. newspapers and on news Web sites everywhere, and it has been on the minds of many people in the media business both online and off. For reactions to the merger from a wide selection of journalists and other concerned people, please click below.

Jon Katz, Slashdot Columnist:

"There is absolutely nothing in Steve Case's background that suggests he is particularly well-equipped to lead a new kind of unimaginably complex media conglomerate into the 21st century, and Wall Street analysts who are so blinded by the hype surrounding this deal that they fail to consider it carefully are likely to be sorry. Along with some of the other arrogant lynchpins of the digital economy, AOL would rank tops among companies that have routinely exploited and mis-handled their dependent customer bases. Could there be anybody alive in America who hasn't personally experienced or known many people who have personally experienced the interminable cut-offs, waits and disconnections that have, from the first, been a staple of the way American Online has done business? How many times has Steve Case had to go on his own online service to apologize for delays and problems brought about by a company that prized growth well ahead of honesty and service?

"Are consumers really well served when one company controls more content and access than any other company in the world? Is individualism, free expression, diverse opinion advanced when the information economy breaks down into two or three "old and new" media conglomerates that control virtually all of the archived news and entertainment information online, and increasingly, the means to deliver it?"

- Wayne A. Martin, News Manager, Amiga.org:

"Smaller niche websites could be pushed further into the shadows by mega-media companies like AOL/Time Warner that have almost unlimited Internet and television promotion resources they can use to boost their own websites. But on the good side, the merger between AOL and Time Warner seems to go hand-in-hand with AOLs recent deal with Gateway to use Gateway's new Information Appliances based on Amiga technology. This could open the doorway to Information Appliances in the market place a lot quicker than many might have expected. With Gateway, Amino [now Amiga Coporation] and probably others able to produce this type of machine, this could possibly be the fatal blow to MS that many have been waiting for."

Brock Meeks, MSNBC correspondent:

"The bottom line of this proposed deal is nothing more than crass commercialism. What a huge advertising coup this is for Bob Pittman of AOL, he must be drooling at the thought of how to put AOL's nefarious 'pop-up' ads on CNN and print via Time magazine. From a public policy perspective, this venture is D.O.A. as well: no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit. Despite the rosey promises from AOL's Steve Case that 'all comers' will be welcomed to compete on the new venture's cable Internet access system, it remains to be seen just how stalwart Case remains in backing up that promise. Remember, this is the same Steve Case that, under oath during his deposition in the Microsoft antitrust case, swore with a straight face that 'We are not a competitor to Microsoft.'"

David Cassel, Editor, AolWatch Newsletter:

"Here's a reason to fear AOL's control. AOL blocked delivery for the last edition of the AOL Watch newsletter. Did the newsletter's 25,000 AOL subscribers trigger an overzealous spam filter? Or was it that this edition was the first to remind users of the phone number for discontinuing service. (AOL had kicked the ACLU off the service after six years, and there was discussion about cancelling accounts en masse...) Either way, remember: Whoever controls the wires can control the content."

Marty Bass, Morning Edition co-host, WJZ TV (Baltimore):

"I can't imagine that this merger will in any way affect local news gathering or viewing. To duplicate the job we do would require setting up a newsroom. I mean, let's face it; with streaming audio and video you could do a 6 PM News, but this would require a ton of cash, and the local stations already have the major headstart, not only in style but in established viewing. This would be an expensive proposition that would not bear fruit for longer than the 'bean counters' could stand.

"Also lets just say that my station which is a CBS O&O, (CBS already provides news to AOL) put our newscast on-line. Would this change the way our competition does news? No, the primary audience is still watching over breakfast or dinner or in bed at 11. The smaller on-line audience would essentially be getting a big promo for the big shows."

Chris Johnson of airwindows.com:

"What with AOL consuming Time Warner and threatening the stability of the world and all, it seemed to me that it would be good and proper to seek the lighter side of the matter. Here is a short quiz. Identify the proper AOL Spokesmen for the following phrases...

'You've, I say, you've got mail, boy!'

'We are going to buy ICQ because it obstructs our view of Venus!'

'Nnnnyou've got mail, Doc!'

"These are of course restricted to classic WB cartoons. But the fun of it is, AOL now owns most of Western Media! :P - so the field of potential spokesmen is almost infinite!"

Alice Hill, Editor, CNET Online:

"We don't really view either company as a competitor. We did a major deal with AOL in 1999 to provide our content for the computing channels on AOL.com, netcenter.com, compuserve.com and the computing and Internet channels on the subscriber services AOL and CompuServe. Over the past year we have enjoyed the relationship, and the audience. At this point, the notion of adding Time Warner to the mix makes it even better."

Carl Steadman, columnist, The Industry Standard:

"The lesson is clear: send out enough pieces of direct mail and you, too, can own the world."

For links to many more opinions on the AOL/Time-Warner merger, please see this excellent page put together by long-time online writer amd media critic Steve Rhodes.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Reactions to AOL/Time-Warner Merger

Comments Filter:
  • Holy Shit! I agree with Jon Katz.

    Time to pop that cyanide pill I've been carrying around, I guess.

  • I'm confused by katz's bit about stock analysts - I don't follow the market, but i thought the news was that aol and time-warner stock had been going *down* since the announcement.

  • by Accipiter (8228) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:18AM (#1375681)
    As a RoadRunner subscriber, this merger scares me. I have convinced countless people to terminate their membership with AOL for many reasons. But now, AOL and Time Warner are creating this Monolithic media empire, and we're the ones who are going to suffer.

    Chances are, AOL is going to "modify" the internet division of Time Warner (Road Runner). What I'M worried about is if they're going to turn RoadRunner into a fast AOL. Think about it....AOL has been plagued by their reputation of having really slow service. Now, if they take RoadRunner, they can truthfully advertise this as "The fastest AOL EVER!", then my interface turns to crap, and I get baby-faced content shoved down my throat.

    Not only that, what happens if the rr.com domain is absorbed by AOL.com? That would mean my new E-mail address would end in aol.com opening up the floodgates for spam. This is not what I want.

    I am perfectly happy with my current Time Warner RoadRunner service, and I will be very upset if this changes. It may even be enough to force me back to dialup access, as that's the only thing in this price range. And I hate dialup.

    Dial-Up is better than AOL, however.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • by rambone (135825) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:22AM (#1375682)
    Stake one mega corporation and merge it with another...what do you get? A monument to mediocrity that will take years to integrate and even longer to get anything real done.

    There's a point where it doesn't make sense to make a corporation any bigger folks. AOL has created a dinosaur. Their competition should find it fairly easy to outflank them now.

  • Take one mega corporation and merge it with another...what do you get? A monument to mediocrity that will take years to integrate and even longer to get anything real done.

    There's a point where it doesn't make sense to make a corporation any bigger folks. AOL has created a dinosaur. Their competition should find it fairly easy to outflank them now.

  • The lovable Jon Katz writes:

    Are consumers really well served when one company controls more content and access than any other company in the world?

    Isn't one company always going to be bigger than any other, and therefore control more content and/or access than any other? I don't like this merger any more than anybody else (had I not already been refusing to support Time Warner by subscribing to their cable service, I would have cancelled my cable this week), but this statement just doesn't make sense. Maybe he meant "more than all other companies; but I don't think AOL-Time Warner is going to be that big. Yet.

  • I think that the effect on the internet as a whole will be negligable at best. One of the writers above mentioned danger to niche sites. People who use those sites now won't stop, and given the rather broadscope of traditional media, and their ignorance on several subjects, niche sites will still be neccesary. Large corporations that have to serve a wide audience can not concentrate vital recources on a small group of consumers. Unlike say, slashdot, which is only concerned with the vital 'Techno-Geek' market, allowing slashdot to send all of its time and recources on things of intrest to them.

  • On their website [ifj.org] the I.F.J. bemoans that:

    We now have a company that can deliver CNN to more than a billion people, yet almost half the world's population still have no access to a telephone. The information gap between rich and poor is already intolerable and now may be made much worse with a greater concentration of technology and information resources in rich, northern countries."

    Cool!. That means that the propagandistic crap that CNN spews out won't reach the malcontented billions. Could this be the internal contradiction of capitalism that leads to its downfall?

    Not to mention that the "democracy" that the IFJ espouses is questionable, what sort of democracy do they want? A large part of the article is a jeremiad against their declining labour conditions. I feel for them, but how many of them are really trying to kick the systems ass? I suspect that much of this sort of moaning is from people that previously felt themselves protected from down-sizing and now realize that it's a bad world that they supported up till now. Aargh...maybe I don't really mean that...things are not going well today.

  • Actualy, it is more likely that your email will end in roadrunner.com. This was the domain of an ISP in New Mexico, but Time Warner bought this domain recently and the ISP changed to cybermesa. It will be a few more years until the domain switches over to Time Warners control though.
  • Well, it looks like Microsoft will so no longer be the most Evil Corporation in existance. If this merger goes through, we could have an entirely new evil entity bent on controlling the internet.

    This is pretty much a sick display of Katz' "corporatism," which is one of the few things I agree with Katz on.

    The internet should not be the next battle ground for big corporations that it is becoming. Regular users are going to end up getting screwed in favor of huge profit margins.

    Oh well, I guess we should all migrate to the I-2. ^_^;

    "You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're dreaming or awake?"

  • You're correct. Monday, AOL opened trading around $80. As of this afternoon, it's hovering around $62. Approximately 25% drop in price in just over three days isn't a ringing endorsement from your stockholders.

    Time Warner (TWX) opened Monday just shy of $100. Now, it's around $80.50. Here, nearly a 20% drop in value.

    Of course, the two companies have a combined market cap of around $240B, but these are pretty significant losses that are obviously connected to the planned "merger" (read buyout).

    Eric
  • Would the moron moderator who marked the first post "redundant" please step forward so he can be beaten to death with AOL coasters? Thanks.

    I, too, agree with Jon Katz (but I don't mind Jon Katz), but Brock Meeks notes scare me the most. AOL owes the content AND the medium. This is very bad; it smells like Conrad Black's near monopoly on newspapers in my Canada...
  • by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o.com> on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:26AM (#1375694) Homepage Journal
    I don't agree with Jon Katz, for a start. Rupert Murdoch has control over a significant percentage of the media in Britain, America and Australia, and yet there hasn't been any significant decline. (Mind you, it's hard to decline from zero, but that's another story.)

    On the other hand, the mere fact that AOL and Time-Warner are major international corporations is grounds enough to examine whether this deal is a good thing or not.

    Personally, I wouldn't say AOL are significantly better or worse than any other ISP. I've had no more disconnects the times I've used them than when I've used any number of local ISPs running Windows-based systems.

    That's not to say I think AOL should be excused - if Windows doesn't cut it, don't use it! - but rather, they shouldn't be villified as if they were the only ones out there. Plenty of other people pull the same stunts, and deserve to be reprimanded for them.

    As for the impact this'll have, honestly I don't see it having any. ISPs will still refuse to support multicasting, IPSec, IPv6 or any other technology that might eat at their profits, through customers getting a better deal. As the current setups are already maxed out, for the most part, precicely because of this attitude, there's not a whole lot AOL or Time-Warner can do to change things.

    The most I can really see happening is AOL offering Warner Brother skins for their software, and/or more AOL adverts on the Cartoon Channel. Other than that, there's nothing more that can really be changed.

  • Smaller niche websites could be pushed further into the shadows by mega-media companies like AOL/Time Warner that have almost unlimited Internet and television promotion resources they can use to boost their own websites.

    I don't visit AOL/Timer-WAarner sites apart from my rare visit to CNN by clicking on slashdot posting.

    The reason the Internet thrives and on-line services ( AOL, Compuserve etc. ) don't, is the multi-cellular architecture of the internet.

    If you scream, the mainstream media won't here you. But the internet will. There in lies the uniqueness of this entity we call the internet.

    As for AOL/Time-Warner, well, we all know what happened to the dinosaurs ( although we don't know how it happened ), and well, the bigger you are the harder you fall.

  • An interview with Steve Case on his new employees.
    realvideo [zdnet.com]
    quicktime [zdnet.com] (xanim-compatible, I think)

    --Jim
  • by Da VinMan (7669) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:28AM (#1375697)
    This merger causes me a lot of concern. It represents the joining of two resources (media and medium) and creates all sorts of efficiencies that will disallow competing viewpoints to emerge from the media. Furthermore, the sheer size of this new entity will again raise the bar against any new entities entering the journalism and/or broadcasting fields. Consider for a moment the rules already governing journalism and its practice via press passes, etc. This governance will only get stronger in the face of powerful lobbying by this new huge entity (American Time Warner?) and those rules will be unlikely to become less restrictive in this new regime (I used that word on purpose); in fact, those rules will probably become even more restrictive to suit the whimsies of this new organization for the newest mass medium (the Internet).

    This merger may have benefits, but it puts way too much power into one entity.
  • On last night's news there was a quote from a Microsoft spokesman. I don't have it exactly, but it went something like: "What's with those DOJ bastards, why are they still after us after this AOL/T-W deal was announced? Fuckers!"

    Answer: AOL and TW don't engage in illegal business practices. (Or at least they haven't been caught.)
  • Immediately after, Time Warner went up 39% (from $64.75 to $90.06): AOL went down $1.75 to $72. I think that in the next two days AOL went down something like 20% on expectations that their growth would slow.
  • Cool!. That means that the propagandistic crap that CNN spews out won't reach the malcontented billions.

    hehe... when AOL opened the floodgates upon usenet with its uneducated users with a great big post button and buggy software that duplicated sensless one liner comments seven times each into what was a thriving diverse usenet community, it was effectively a denial of service attack. Entire newsgroups were ruined.

    I was reading the alt.best.of.usenet or whatever it was called --at the moment they turned on their sewage pipe. Immediately, the newsgroup filled with humorous postings was awash with crap.

    You think CNN is bad now, just wait until they monopolize and control all your news feeds with their quick and agressive marketing strategy. With AOL's proven expansion, it seems many news carriers will be gobbled up and you will have one source for your news! Yipieeeee!
  • Plenty of other people pull the same stunts, and deserve to be reprimanded for them.
    This is true. There are probably hundreds of ISPs who offer equivalent or worse service than AOL. The destinction (for me) arises in the fact that most of these others don't go around advertising the ease of use and quality of their product. Approx. 50% of the net users fall under the catagory that are fed lies and propaganda (not to mention free AOL CDs). The problem isn't the service alone, but the scale of the crime. Theft is theft, but when its a $250 billion theft, it counts a bit more than ripping off the local grocery store.

    -Elendale (should stop posting anti-AOL posts)

  • I really dislike how Microsoft and their supporters say that this merger puts them in direct competition with Microsoft, and that therefore the anti-trust case is invalid. They said the same thing when AOL bought Netscape... It would seem that anything that AOL does these days invalidates the antitrust trial...

    In truth, they're still in very different markets. With a few exceptions (MSNBC, Slate) Microsoft has tried to steer away from the content markets - they even say so at times, saying that they'll create the tools for other people to create content and view it with. AOL on the otherhand has been chasing the content market without really caring much for the software side of things. So long as it works good enough for their subscribers to log on and access content, that's fine.

    Besides which - AOL has no operating system. It runs mainly on windows, with much delayed upgrades to get Mac users up to par with Windows users.

    So, regardless - users still need Windows, which only Microsoft can supply at whatever charge they'ed like - AOL is mainly a content company with a very small finger in software, where as Microsoft is a software company that dabbles in content - I can not fathom how Microsoft can say that AOL has created true competition for them.

    Yes, it is a little scary to think that way over half of the mainstream news outlets will be controlled by AOL Time-Warner, but it's a different argument completely. But so long as they don't "revamp" their software to interfere with users visiting content sites that aren't controlled by them, I am very hard pressed to see the real "consumer harm" that people mention.

    NBC, CBS, CNN etc all basically report the same exact news. You've always had to dig deeper to find the "other" news. Since AOL/Time Warner only serves the mainstream, I doubt it will make much difference to us, even in 5 or 10 years, who owns what, because they're all already the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm not a big fan of either company, but I have to say that this merger looks like a smart business move. Time warner has content and wants electronic distribution. AOL has connectivity and needs content to keep people coming back. It's that simple. The two parties even interlock on the type of Internet connections they can provide: AOL has modems but no cable, Time Warner has cable but no modems. I know I'm oversimplifing things, but you can see why the stockholders and business wonks are going to approve. And before we all wring our hands over AOL making us watch pop-up ads in the corner of movies, this isn't the first time that a content provider has merged with the connection provider. GE owns both NBC (who make TV shows) and RCA (which makes TVs). Yet you don't see RCA TVs made that only receive NBC. So long as AOL doesn't restrict users from choosing ESPN.com over CNNSI.com, let's not panic. Let the bean counters drool over market forecasts and "synergy". If they jack up my cable prices, I'll dump my stock and get a dish and DSL.
  • by ThatGuy47 (136156) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:40AM (#1375709)
    ...was having to see Steve Case smiling at me from the front page of both of my morning papers at ~5am.

    --t
  • by Rombuu (22914) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:40AM (#1375710)
    What was this, a say the stupidest thing possible and pass it off as analysis contest? Here are some real winners...

    The Katz entry: Are consumers really well served when one company controls more content and access than any other company in the world?

    Well, John, hasn't one company or another always been #1?

    From Brock Meeks: no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit

    Hmmm... guess that puts an end to home delivery of newspapers. And those damn local TV stations better quit doing local newscasts as well.

    Chris Johnsons bit: Yeah, real deep and funny..

    Why doesn't anyone address the real nice outcome from this merger... open access to cable infrastructure is almost guaranteed thanks to this.
  • "Windows-based systems"?
    AFAIK, AOL uses Unix boxen running the quasi-recently open-sourced AOLserver. No windows. They know it sucks.

    Reference:
    http://photo.net/wtr/thebook/community.html
    "... (America Online successfully handles 2.5 billion requests per day with an almost identical architecture: AOLserver + Sybase + Unix)..."

    --Jim
  • Um, yes, but Murdoch was recently denied permission to buy Manchester United Football (read:soccer, US folks) Club, on the grounds that this would give him way too much power over sports broadcasting in the UK.

    Content, and means of delivery, see?

  • Brock Meeks, MSNBC correspondent:

    From a public policy perspective, this venture is D.O.A. as well: no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit.


    Funny comming from a MSNBC correspondent. Isn't NBC doing coverage of the MS trial? Just strikes me as a little glass houseish.
    -cpd
  • Buffy as AOL spokes-slayer: *boredly* "You've got mail. 'psych'."

    :)

  • I am perfectly happy with my current Time Warner RoadRunner service, and I will be very upset if this changes. It may even be enough to force me back to dialup access, as that's the only thing in this price range. And I hate dialup.

    I, too, subscribe to RoadRunner, and I love it. Thoughts of having to hear "You've got mail" every time I logged on to the internet made me cringe as well. But even if they never force RR subscribers to log on with their bloated software (unlikely), the simple fact that by subscribing to RR I am, in a way, supporting AOL is enough to make me cancel (Not until the merger is complete, of course. I believe that is sometime next year).

    Don't ignore the possibility of DSL! In Texas, I believe DSL only costs five bucks a month more than cable modem.

    -
  • While it has stabilized today, AOL's stock needs to be high for this deal to go through. AOL was down 15% since the announcement was made. With the 11% loss of Time Warner in the past two days, the value of the deal has dropped an incredible $23 billion. If this continues, this could spell a lot of trouble.

    If AOL backs away (because of dwindling market valuation), they would be forced to pay a $5.37 billion breakup fee (the largest ever), with Time Warner's at $3.9 bilion. The walk away date is May 31, 2001.
  • I think you have little to fear. As I understand it, RoadRunner is a separate company not under the control of TimeWarner, but rather under contract to use TimeWarner's existing personell and lines in exchange for $.

    As always this may not be correct...as I am not affiliated with TimeWarner.

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:49AM (#1375719) Journal
    Hee, hee! I get a kick out of seeing journalists from different areas putting different slants on a story.

    Take a good look at these:
    "With Gateway, Amino [now Amiga Coporation] and probably others able to produce this type of machine, this could possibly be the fatal blow to MS that many have been waiting for." -- Wayne A. Martin, News Manager, Amiga.org

    "The bottom line of this proposed deal is nothing more than crass commercialism. What a huge advertising coup this is for Bob Pittman of AOL, he must be drooling at the thought of how to put AOL's nefarious 'pop-up' ads on CNN and print via Time magazine."
    (and...)
    "...no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit." -- Brock Meeks, MSNBC correspondent

    "Here's a reason to fear AOL's control. AOL blocked delivery for the last edition of the AOL Watch newsletter." -- David Cassel, Editor, AolWatch Newsletter

    "There is absolutely nothing in Steve Case's background that suggests he is particularly well-equipped to lead a new kind of unimaginably complex media conglomerate into the 21st century, and Wall Street analysts who are so blinded by the hype surrounding this deal that they fail to consider it carefully are likely to be sorry."
    (and...)
    "Is individualism, free expression, diverse opinion advanced when the information economy breaks down into two or three "old and new" media conglomerates that control virtually all of the archived news and entertainment information online, and increasingly, the means to deliver it?" -- Jon Katz, Slashdot Columnist

    So in other words, the Amiga guy sees this as a blow to MS in favour of Amiga. The MS-NBC (check those letters closely!) guy figures this is a dangerous and crass example of overcommercialisation. The AOLWatch guy is worried about AOL threatening AOLWatch more effectively. And then there's JonKatz, who rants against any and all big business and asks rhetorical questions in stunningly long, convoluted sentences.

    Bottom line, their biases are showing. Painfully.

    While it's true that there's no such thing as an unbiased story, it's pretty sad when the so called "journalists" can't even pretend to look at the other side of an issue, let alone attempt to report on it fairly.

    Of course, my biases are showing too; I hate bad journalism. Just ask yourself, whenever you read or watch a news story, does the article say more about the story itself or the journalist reporting it?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is ironic isn't it that a mega merger of questionable value to consumers and the economy is being carried out while at the same time a company that has synergistic divisions (of which some would say is evil and unhealthy) looks like it is going to be carved up? It all seems so contradictory. One the one hand we are told that it is bad to have a big company with divisions that complement each other because that company is just too efficient, profitable and powerful. Then at the same time, this AOL-Time-Warner-CNN merger takes place because (we are told) it would be so much better if they could all work together and become more efficient, profitable and powerful. So which is scarier? Microsoft as it is right now? Or AOL-Time-Warner-CNN plus god-what-else-in-the-future?
  • I guess the main point with Microsoft, that's often missed, is that the anti-trust suit is NOT about Microsoft now, but their status and actions in the past.

    The whole world could switch to Linux tomorrow, and it still wouldn't, or at least shouldn't, affect the case.
  • Careful. Mr. Black's been known to viciously sue people who badmouth him...
  • You alarmists are really getting annoying, oops, that is your intention.

    Please tell us, just how will Slashdot, or 2600, or Hackernews or Drudge or Lynn Samuels or ANYBODY else will be kept from voicing their views and having them seen, even if AOL merges with Time AND ExxonMobil AND ATT and just about anybody else they feel like merging with?

    Whyle you are at it, why were you not brandishing this complaint towards Andover?

    What is wrong with a basement business (like AOL began, like /. began, like HP began, like Apple began, like MS began, like Amazon began) becoming big?

    The answer is at the top of this post, all you do is try to invent alarm and profit from said alarm.

  • I think that the effect on the internet as a whole will be negligable at best. One of the writers above mentioned danger to niche sites. People who use those sites now won't stop, and given the rather broadscope of traditional media, and their ignorance on several subjects, niche sites will still be neccesary.

    And how exactly are people going to "hear" of those niche sites? CNN has news, why go anywhere else. AOL has already digested this for me, it's feeding time. Want to promote that hot new start-up idea? "Not on my networks you won't." "We have a new media property? Well, spam CNN,CNNSI,SI,AOL,Healine News,(the list goes on for days) and we should get somebody" AOL is already a big believer in the spam approach, they won't stop now that they have even more ears and eyeballs. bah humbug, the whole things just chaps my hide.
  • My worries are exactly the same as they always are with big mergers, IE, will the information that is now being presented by one of the conglomeration's names, whether it's AOL, CNN, Time, or one of the non-well-publicized names, be actually accurate and fair, or will it become biased?

    The net's still very wide open, and CNN.com is just as accessable as a small site. But tradtional news media (TV and print) are very hard to break into; if there is one source of control for a large majority of this type of media, the source can easily corrupt, dismiss, and distort the facts.

    AOL-Time-Warner spans way too many companies, way too many fields to be considered "for the public good". We're not going to benefit from CNN and AOL being able to cross-promote. Really. It's not going to cut costs, it's not going to increase competition, and neither company is hurting.

    And BTW - I think that a reporter for MSNBC really shouldn't be calling this "crass commercialization." It's just a tad hypocritical.

    Doones
  • by Mezz (120952)
    A corporation of this size and magnitude can only mean one thing...the lowering of the LCD across the board (which was why I was on AOL for less than 24 hours, you can only insult my intelligence so much, then I'll realize it ;^D). OTOH, if they can stream the original Space Ghost and Chuck Jones cartoons to my screen, maybe I'll join up again (maybe with the Uranium edition).
  • no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit.

    That has been the case for a while. The only difference here is that the conduit is now a worldwide computer network instead of broadcasting rights.

    (sorry if duped, couldn't tell if /. actually rejected my comment when i submitted it without a subject)

    --

  • by bjb (3050) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @09:56AM (#1375728) Homepage Journal
    (somebody had to comment on it :)

    While I always enjoy any news related to the Amiga (even with the sad state that it is in), I did find the mention a little bit interesting.

    Basically, the Amiga technology has been getting pawned off over the years as "technology which is great, might not be quite what you want for a computer anymore, but would do wonders for set top boxes". I've thought that the set top box is perfect for it. If AOL does have some sort of deal that dribbles down to Amiga Corporation, then this could be a significant opportunity to at least keep the Amiga technology alive.

    I've used the digital cable system of Comcast in the northern New Jersey area. It consists of a large pizza box for a tuner with a large (and poorly designed) remote control to drive this thing. There are up to 999 channels (and about 400-500 are actually used), and it has built in television listings and primitive programming capabilities (timers, reminders, etc). Essentially, you're getting some sort of MPEG stream from the cable company, and this box is the decoder (you can see the digital artifacts in the signal; similar to what you see on DVDs). While the idea of the technology is great, I think that the actual "computer" behind the box is rather poor; it seems that most of the computing power is dedicated to the MPEG stream rather than to the controls. This would be an excellent job for the Amiga. I won't say that it couldn't be handled by another technology, but the architecture behind the Amiga is quite well suited for this, and if the "Digital Content Behemoth" (AOL/TW) has some sort of relation to the Amiga technology, then why not use it.

    My two cents; no refunds.

    --

  • .....could very well end up in anti-trust. In the mean time, we the consumer will pay a significant price.
  • we'll be getting cards in the mail every two weeks giving us free month-long subscriptions to time magazine? (hmm, that might be a good thing, as long as they're not too difficult to cancel)

    --

  • 1. AOL announces buyout of (oops! sorry, "merger with") Time-Warner.
    2. Road Runner subscribers realize they're going to be taken over by AOL.
    3. Subscriber posts to roadrunner newsgroup: "I'll quit before I become an AOLer!"
    4. Follow-up posts quickly summarized as "Me too!"
    (True, at least in the columbus groups...)
    --
  • I agree. What this merger represents is an increase in the barrier to entry for journalism as a whole.

    Someone posted in Slashdot that this merger confirms the "commoditization" status of content - The delivery of content, and not the content itself, is now the focus of these large media companies.

    I'm still trying to digest just what this new focus represents. Will the already superficial reporting in mass media become even more superficial, with more opinion, more drama, less analysis, and less facts? Will alternate news sources become marginalized?

    The effects of "content commodity" is already apparent - for example, try finding further information on a news story beyond the initial report in AP. You'll just find many, many reworded articles based on the original Associated Press story. Nothing more.

    In my view, theonion.com parody stories represent how media will evolve. Imagine a nation of USA Todays
  • by delmoi (26744)
    Can the FTC stop this, do they have grounds to?

    I mean they stopped Office Max from merging with Staples, to avoid a monopoly in the "office super store" category, I would think that preventing a monopoly on Public information would be a top concern, right?

    I submitted this story a couple of days ago, and it was rejected right away, but anyway I do think its a bad and creepy idea, The two companies together have so much potential to control the media that its genuinely frightening. And to think that they would actively censor there users E-mail like that only makes the situation worse.



    "Suble Mind control? why do html buttons say submit?",
  • This is the perfect opportunity for Ted Turner to retire.

    This is funny:
    Ted Turner has compared his reaction to this deal to the joy he experienced when he lost his virginity :)

    I think I would like this deal better... AOL has decided that Time Warner was worth about 70% more than what the public (the stock market) had deemed fair.

    You bet he's selling :)
    But how smart is AOL?
  • I don't like the idea of AOL/Time-Warner owning content and delivery any more than anyone else here. But this isn't the real evil, you have to look a little deeper.

    AFAIK, any time you want to get high-speed cable access, the cable company becomes your ISP. With this kind of setup, AOL becomes deadweight - or toast, if you'd prefer that term.

    The cable companies seem to feel that they need this exclusive 'ISP+physical access' power if they're to recoup the infrastructure investment needed for widespread broadband access.

    But these are the headlights AOL sees coming, and they feel they need to be in the driver's seat, or they'll be crunching under the wheels.

    I'm under the impression that ADSL is a bit better. At least Bell Atlantic has a short list of alternate ISPs you can use over their lines. Of course using Bell Atlantic as ISP+physical access appears to be the best deal, so I don't know how much better this "open" arrangement really is.

    Moreover, I don't know how to break this deadlock caused by physical infrastructure invesement. But it's holding us all back, until these companies figure out a way.

    (Neither cable nor ADSL are available to me.)
  • Regarding Marty Bass's comments:

    I can't imagine that this merger will in any way affect local news gathering or viewing. To duplicate the job we do would require setting up a newsroom.


    It seems Time Warner is already working on providing local news channels to the larger markets. In December, Time Warner had a very public battle here in Columbus with the local media conglomerate that owns the local CBS affiliate and the city's daily newspaper. The local company has been running a regional news network called the Ohio News Network for the past several years and they wanted Time Warner to add it to their channel line-up. TW refused, saying they did not have the capacity to do this. As a result, the local company threatened to pull the CBS affiliate from TW cable unless ONN was carried. Full page ads were run in the daily and weekly newspapers in town and television ads were run by both companies. Engineers were interviewed by both sides of the issue to support/refute the capacity claims. TW was offering antennae to their customers in case CBS was pulled. Eventually, a settlement was reached, but not before it was revealed that Time Warner has plans to offer their own regional news networks in the next few years in Ohio and other large markets. So yes, local media outlets do have reason to worry as AOLTW will have plenty of resources at their disposal to get such a thing running and integrated with the Internet. And surely they could avoid providing a broken link [wjz.com] on WJZ's website to the local news that Marty feels can't be reproduced.
  • Why doesn't anyone address the real nice outcome from this merger... open access to cable infrastructure is almost guaranteed thanks to this.

    How does this work? What's to prevent AOL/TW from only allowing their content on the cable lines? AOL was only screaming for open access because it had no high bandwidth pipes. Now with Road Runner and At Home they do.

    Besides, hasn't the FCC essentially discouraged any local initiative to open access on cable lines?

    And wasn't the movie industry restricted from owning the theaters and distribution channels for their own movies in the 50s? That helped further erode the Hollywood movie studios' power over the then dominant entertainment medium.
  • "I was reading the alt.best.of.usenet or whatever it was called --at the moment they turned on their sewage pipe. Immediately, the newsgroup filled with humorous postings was awash with crap."

    C'mon, tell it right...

    This was 1993 or '94 he's talking about, and the group was alt.best.of.internet, where people were supposed to repost good news postings from other groups.

    That group went thru regular longwave cycles where a few people would use it correctly, and it would draw an audience, so various idiots would try to take advantage of the attention, and people would go away... rinse, repeat.

    AOL finally got around to offering newsgroups at that point, featuring a few 'starter' groups as everyone's default, the first of which-- in alphabetical order-- was aboi.

    So AOL people started deluging into the group, asking totally random things like "Where can I get soy fertilizer in Ames, Iowa?" or "Anyone in Duluth want to make hot monkey love tonight?"

    Now, the first response of aboi regulars was, disgracefully enough, to play sadistic games with the newcomers, making the situation much worse. (Shooting fish in a barrel was the image that came to my mind.)

    It was actually me who realized what the situation was at AOL's end, and started trying to get them a message to change the default for the sake of aboi.

    They didn't respond until Weemba posted a message with the subjectline "AOL top brass joins Satanic cult in ritual sacrifices" or the equialent, within hours of which the spigot went off.

  • To see what the AOL/Time Warner media will say about Microsoft. For one thing, it's obvious Steve Case wants Microsoft dead, but now that he controls more media outlets than any single person, he could very easily start a FUD campaign against Microsoft in order to weaken them. But luckily, stretching of the truth would not be needed - as anyone aware of their unethical business practices knows.

  • ...because I generally think MSNBC does a fairly good job of presenting things in a unbiased way, with regards to things remotely related to Microsoft, and for that, I applaud them.

    Brock Meeks, appears to me to be creeping to the 'dark side' with this one though. He calls it crass commercialism, but I can't be convinced for one second that MSNBC doesn't/wouldn't want to do the same thing. Technology + Media.

    At the same time, he throws in same tired argument that this is proof that MS does have competitors. Interesting that a similar statement was just released by MS lawyers in their breakup defense. Would AOL/TW be a competitor to MSNBC? Perhaps... probably. However, a wholly outright coup against Microsoft proper? I still don't see that.

    Next, we can remove the crap about owning "the content as well as the conduit" and his groundless worries that Case will leave the open access coalition... and the result is that I find nil worthwhile content in the dude's statement. I dunno. Perhaps I don't have my paranoia filter set to +1. But I can't shake the notion that, this time around, it's the Meeks's corporate interests talking.
  • A corporation of this size and magnitude can only mean one thing...the lowering of the LCD across the board (which was why I was on AOL for less than 24 hours, you can only insult my intelligence so much, then I'll realize it ;^D). OTOH, if they can stream the original Space Ghost and Chuck Jones cartoons to my screen, maybe I'll join up again (maybe with the Uranium edition).

    I lower my LCD every night, when I power off my laptop.

    George
  • Then you'd actually look forward to getting free aol mailings ;-)
  • Could this be the Seven-Headed Dragon of the Apocolypse?

    1) AOL
    2) Time
    3) Netscape
    4) Warner Bros.
    5) CNN
    6) Road Runner
    7) Sports Illustrated

    And the whore riding on its back?
    Steven Case.... Ted Turner?

    :)
  • Chris Byron has the best analysis [observer.com] in this week's NY Observer, I think.

    My version (related but not identical):

    • AOL's value is nowhere near what the market claims
    • Time-Warner would be nuts to give away so much for so little
    • What Time-Warner is really doing is milking the bubble while the milking is good, and when it collapses Time-Warner will still hold all the cards
    • The stockholders can take advantage of the bubble if they're smart, but will lose their shirts if they don't get out in time

    The only other explanation is that TW knows that they won't have to open their cable access to others, and can thus force AOL on all their customers (ie, the fix is in).

    But I think all the metaphors about strangleholds and big players squeezing out little guys are naive propaganda-- the Web works in exactly the opposite way in the long run, and even a nebbish like Drudge can get a half-million hits a day with no advertising budget.

  • What's to prevent AOL/TW from only allowing their content on the cable lines?

    They could do this, but they would get killed by every other cable company in the country, namely AT&T's cable empire.
  • I'm sorry but the the AOL-Time-Warner deal, much as it is, is incomplete. What a mouthful of a name too, doesn't slide off the tongue at all.

    The current course of action for AOL-Time-Warner is to merge with C|Net and Healtheon.

    The resulting company Warner-AOL-Time-C|Net-Healtheon or "WATCH" really would have the right kinda feel for a big-brother media corporation.



    ---
    "And the beast shall be made legion. Its numbers shall be increased a thousand thousand fold."

  • GE owns both NBC (who make TV shows) and RCA (which makes TVs).

    Doesn't Thomson Consumer Electronics (TCE), a French company, own RCA?

  • It wouldn't be the first time they tried. Back in the late seventies, RCA produced a 'Pong' knockoff that connected to your TV. Wouldn't you know it, the installation manual said it would only work on RCA televisions, and then only on their newer, spiffier models.

    They were handing the consumer a shovel of manure. The unit worked fine on every TV with an external antenna connection, but I'm damn sure RCA got quite a few new TV purchases out of it.
  • Ok, I admit that having so much of our media controlled by one company is a bit scary. But really we don't know how this is all going to turn out. I mean 20 years ago who would have guessed that a small upstart call microsoft would one day surpass a giant like IBM thats been around for over a hundred years. Our world changes rapidly and unpredictably, as it always has. We really have no idea what this merger is going to do. In fact, it may completely fall apart for that matter. The only thing about it that scares me is the monopoly it could possibly generate. Monopolies stifle competition and overcharge the end consumer. The next few years should tell us what is going to happen. If it goes badly then the government should step in and break it up like they did to ATT and are now doing with Microsoft. That is the governments responsibility, to protect the individual right of its citizens. So I'm not going to be negative on this, just yet.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    NPS Internet Solutions, LLC
    "Get your domain name for only $45" [npsis.com]


    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    NPS Internet Solutions, LLC
  • I think that the incompatibility of the two companies on some level has to do with some of this falling valuation. They do not have the same operations approaches AT ALL.

    Time-Warner is not always associated with quality in everything they do (many shows on the WB), but Quality is definately one of their product differentiators. People expect CNN to have a fairly objective, high quality set of programming. Time Magazine isn't as well respected as National Geographic, but you are hard pressed to find an older or more widely accepted and known news magazine. Warner Bros pictures have a fairly high standard of quality and is the only longterm mindshare competitor with Disney. Warner Cable is simply what I think of when someone mentions cable. It's brand is associated with Quality, plain and simple.

    AOL is NOT associated with Quality. It is good enough and fast enough and cheap. Their operating strategy is Cost and Quantity. Keep prices low and pump out the garbage like there is no tomorrow. This is a perfectly valid approach to business, and there are many companies who use this approach that I do not mind at all. (AOL spams me, so I don't like them.)

    When you put these two strategies together, it does not mix well. Either Time-Warner starts shovelling garbage at extreme rates and loses all of its "value", or AOL tries to shape up and loses the only things that were keeping it on top. The few people I know who own Time Warner stock are either dropping it, or waiting to see if the deal goes through before they drop it. When you mix these two companies together, you'll find out that they won't. The smarter analysts on Wall Street have probably thought this out much better and more thoroughly than I have, but they are probably being cautious at best.

    B. Elgin

  • This has to be the scariest thing I have ever read. They want to be the "largest and most respected comapny in the world"? I think feared is probably a better word.
  • > If they jack up my cable prices, I'll dump my stock and get a dish and DSL.

    Ack, I can just see it now, I change channels and suddenly a busy signal comes out of my speakers. So much for my plans to get a cable-modem. Curse MediaOne for selling out. Already have had my bill raised twice my TW, can't wait for AOL-TW's new hourly viewing plan:}
  • Stop me if I'm wrong, but CNN is owned by Time-Warner, whom is being bought out by AOL, right?

    What fun, I've got a choice between Microsoft or AOL now for my latest unbiased *cough**cough*bull----*cough**cough* news.
    Just shoot me now.

  • I agree with you that all too often, an EXCESSIVE amount of alarm is generated about stories like this (particularly on /.). However, the reason *I* oppose AOL getting big is twofold:

    1) AOL's product is crap. It dumbs down the internet for people too stupid to subscribe to a local ISP and install Netscape (or IE) and SAVE MONEY AS WELL AS TIME.

    2) I subscribe to RoadRunner for cable modem service which is owned by Time Warner. I am afraid of being forced to subscribe to AOL as a result of this merger if I want to continue to use my cable modem.

    -
  • I keep hearing this mantra that we can't allow the news to become less diversified. My question is: where is the diversity at right now? What practical differences do the major news organizations present?

    I've found a simple solution to news media. I don't have a television. I don't subscribe to any newspapers. I have no interest in the whitewashed, biased drivel that they wish to peddle. Thanks but no thanks.

    I wouldn't worry too much about this. There are competitive checks currently in the market. I got DSL from a provider that had no interest in controlling the content on it.

    On another front, I hope this provides some competition to the telcos so that they might dethrone their collective derrieres and actually respond to their customers. The telcos make AOL look like *great* customer service. If you don't believe me, try calling US West about ISDN sometime.

    All in all, this deal affects me exactly one whit. I don't use AOL (I don't have to! Imagine that!) and I don't have a television, so I miss out on TW's diverse (after all, the AOL deal is removing diversity, therefore TW must have had diversity) media offerings. Oh well.

    I think that the main problem here is that people are irritated that the merger will likely work. A significant part of the population does seem to want the news/Internet/cartoons spoon fed to them. I agree-- this irritates me too. Not because AOL and TW had the wisdom to merge, but because there are seemingly so many people out there that want to be spoon fed.
  • It represents the joining of two resources (media and medium) and creates all sorts of efficiencies that will disallow competing viewpoints to emerge from the media.

    Actually, that kind of reminds me of the Rockerfeller Steel case where the steel company owned the only practical means of delivering it (the railroad). All well and good that AOL still backs opening the cable lines to other ISPs on consumer end, but what about the content providing end? Would AOL block a rival content provider to their customer base? Then again, media outlets all seems so homogenized right now, I wonder if it would make much difference.

    -Jennifer

  • Not quite. AOL has fallen about 20% since the announcement of the merger, but that was just trend that the stock has been suffering since reaching a mid-Dec high of around 95 (it is around 60 now). The market for AOL is shaky with more than a few people wondering if the merger will go through at all. There's a lot to be worried about with such a multinational to be created and the SEC will probably run them through lots of hoops. Time-Warner, however, jumped from an average of 65 pre-merger talk to over 100. It has since settled at a relatively "calm" 85.

    The big problem with this merger is the viablity of AOL to maintain it's advantage as the dominant leader of internet eyeballs. It's profits are in it's ability to reach many different groups with niche advertising. Marketers love this idea. And with Time-Warner onboard, now AOL has something to sell besides itself. Movies, music, books, magazines, etc. The magic word here is retail. Gaining Time-Warner make AOL "respectable" and getting bought out makes TW a "dot-com." The best of both worlds? Well, maybe for them, at least until AOL tanks or gets sued.

    AOL's ability to buy TW is dependent on it's stock remaining viable. With the fluctuations of the last month and back tracking to the last quarter of last year, tech stocks have become a gambler's paradise. And everyone is waiting for the bubble to pop. If it does happen after the AOL-TW merger, ugly things occur all around.

    Personally, I have some problems with AOL. They tend to make some big publicty mistakes and I'm not sure how well Steve Case can handle a "real" company. If the merger goes through, it does mean that AOL will have a stable income and can ride through another big marketing gaffe (sure to happen when all of those magazine subscribers start getting solictated for AOL accounts and vice-versa). AOL has been able to establish itself as an "e-community," and that may very well stay true. The question how many gaffes will occur. While the current TW top management stays on board to run the TW division, Case still makes the final decisions. Given his track record, that is enough to give me the creeps.

    -S. Louie
  • That's completely irrelevant. Are they suppost to just not report on the news because it is in some way connected to their company? Did CNN not report that Ted Turner and Jane Fonda were having marital problems (not that any one really gives a shit)?

    MSNBC is just another news source like any other.
  • by Daeslin (95666) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @10:41AM (#1375765) Homepage
    While I am slightly concerned (altough mostly neutral), those complaining about coupling content and delivery are using an arguement that historically doesn't hold up. If they want to use this argument, they may be able to claim that the Internet changes things, but all Old-Media (tm) companies have usually historically been both content and conduit.

    For instance, newspapers (like Time) usually own and control their own presses. Even when they outsource the actual printing, they still control the content. TV stations, radio stations, and the ilk all operate similarly.

    And empires in media is not a new trend either. While this takes it to new heights, the media had already essentially completed its transistion to megacorp long ago. And while most sell their souls, their perspectives, and their opinions, the actual reporters are still people and occasionally do stand up for their beliefs.

    The fact of the matter is, if they become too useless people just drop out. Look at newspaper readership in GenXers. Almost none of read the old pulp. I think television news listenership will eventually decline also. Radio may be sustained by commuters, desiring some local info, but as our society globalizes via the Internet, we're losing our local focus.

    Why? Because locally we can't find enough similarity of interests. There is not slashdotesque TV station in St. Louis, so I hit the news. Its what I care about, not local schools (I probably should, but I'm single, so I don't).

    Things morph, but we're still people. Even megacorps have people (like us) that, in the words of Paul (in the Bible), "fight the good fight".

    --Jason

  • by Roundeye (16278) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @10:41AM (#1375766) Homepage
    With all this talk about who owns what wires, what percent of the press is owned by whom, how these outlets will possibly get control of such and such content, everyone seems to have forgotten the reality of why these mergers take place.

    While it's easy to see that Company A has such and such a share of some market and Company B has such and such a share of some other related market that company C (=A+B) will have both shares and will be bigger, etc., so company C is "more powerful" (translated "probably going to make more money") companies generally (especially big companies like these) don't undertake these sorts of mergers unless there is a specific reason.

    Such reasons are usually of the form "If we do not buy that company then their new product will erode our dominance in market X", "our other competitor is beating us by using their Y technology, we'll buy this third company and get the same technology", "we need to sell product Z to strengthen our core business, and their customer base is the perfect market," etc.

    Consider this: Time Warner owns immense amounts of copyrighted content -- music, movies, literature, etc. They are one of the big players in this "lock down the MP3's/mpegs/online distribution"-shove-SDMI-down-your-throat "piracy" (bootlegging?) battle. Nobody in their right mind is going to use SDMI over a free mp3 (or mp3-like) format. Why allow the robber-barons of the content kingdom to extend their outmoded royalty/distribution monopoly? Time/Warner realizes this, and they realize that the only way to keep those $ flowing is to get SDMI (or something very similar) into the hands of the mass consumer. How does one do that? Find a large body of mass consumers and shove it in their faces. Make it easier than the alternative.

    The biggest body of captive mass consumers sheepish/idiotic enough to accept that SDMI is an easy way to get their music online is the body of AOL subscribers. While partnering with AOL may do the job, buying them out ensures control over distribution in their medium, and will ensure that no non-SDMI system will appear as an alternative to an AOL subscriber. When the base of 20 million (?) AOLers is locked into SDMI then SDMI becomes a de facto standard. A few years down the road and ideally (for T/W) this will be the case for video content as well. And, the perfect target audience has already been recruited by AOL. Hell, now that they own Netscape, and M$ will play ball they can just put SDMI in the browsers too. "Boss, it's a win-win".

  • by Bhodi (8956) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @10:45AM (#1375769)
    It's too late. the domains aol-rr.com and rr-aol.com have already been taken. By AOL. On Monday.

    Kowai.
  • I don't think this is significant in the way most people think. Certainly, this is a huge deal. No doubt about it, one of the biggest ever, BUT I think this is only the first of it's kind. This is just part of the growth of the Internet (which don't forget, AOL is not, as much as they would like their customers to believe otherwise.) The true Internet is currently so much larger than AOL and will only continue to grow. This was bound to happen at one time or another. The merging of old media with the new. I would look for there to be other mega-mergers of this sort down the road. You can look at it also as a sort of "validation" (if you will) of the Internet as having finally arrived. Until now and perhaps for awhile yet, the Internet has been an experiment, compared to the potential it has yet to realize. The Internet is still having growing pains. Witness the multitude of problems with online shopping during the past holiday season. The Internet is still so very young and relatively wide open where business is concerned. I dare say it has a long, long way to go. Sure, in the future, we'll look back at this merger as being a major turning point (similar to what the open sourcing of Netscape's browser did for Open Source software) in the growth and acceptance of the Internet, but I think it will be seen as just that and not the beginning of the end. (The end being an AOL dominated Internet. Nope, not gonna happen.)

    ----------------

    "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." - Albert Einstein
  • I'm a RoadRunner subscriber, because the phone lines to my apartment are 26 gauge cable, which somewhat truncates DSLs normal 14000 ft. limit. If they were 24 gauge, I'd be laughing, but they're not, and as a result I'm now contemplating the possibility that I'll have to get/use AOL in order to have the fat bandwidth which I now enjoy.

    The more I think about it, the less I care. AOL is an annoyance, but I *have* to have the bandwidth. If it's a choice between a dial-up and AOL cable access, I'll suck it up and go with AOL every time.

    Now, AOL has two choices in this matter.

    1) They can leverage my heroine-like addiction to bandwidth, force me to exclusively use the MacOS half of my Mac/LinuxPPC dual-boot, make me give up my IPMasq/Firewall, make my roommate use the Win98 half of his dual boot, and ensure that the instant Southwestern Bell gets the tech to push DSL out to 14000 ft (or 12000 on that damned 26 gauge cable) from the fiber-fed sac boxes rather than the CO, I switch and my bandwidth dollars go to SBC for the foreseeable future, or

    2) they can treat me like RoadRunner does now, with no login scripts, no proprietary clients, just a hot IP address at the end of my Cat5, a mere dhcpcd away, and maybe I'll stay for a while.

    It's their choice, really.

    Don Negro
  • Rupert Murdoch has control over a significant percentage of the media in Britain, America and Australia, and yet there hasn't been any significant decline. (Mind you, it's hard to decline from zero, but that's another story.)

    As a middle-aged U.S. citizen, a trip to Europe really woke me up to the meaning of "British Empire." (also lead me to coin the phrase "Mommie -Dearest Country.")

    (let's also be sure to remember what the "A" in "AOL" stands for.)

    I appreciate your describing the potential as a "decline from zero," but I think you said it in jest, and I take it more seriously. I believe that, in the U.S., the media are the fourth branch of government (the "official" ones being the Executive (president), Legislative (congress), and Judicial (the Supreme Court).)

    In the past few years our media scene has diversified tremendously due to the inexpensive, global communications that the internet provides.

    I'm concerned for our democracy when that diversity is threatened my our "Free-market" economy. The trouble is, the free market is not stable, and democracy requires quality in education and communication in order to produce optimal results.

    When I see AOL and Time/Warner joining forces, I see the power of the Internet harnessed to provide the benefits of Television. And here, in the USA, the power of Television as a tool for education and communication has never been realized.

    The next most popular television show here, after Wrestling (!), is a situation drama about patching up gunshot victims. Not that we care about gunshot victims (the whole world must know by now that these people are a major U.S. industry); it's just that we need that level of sensationalism to attract viewers to the advertising.

    Heavens, what if we stopped thinking about the ads and started thinking about the victims? Can't have that. We'd better corral all of those internet subversives and sweep them under a flood of advertising and cheap news bites, before somebody gets civilized.

  • Gotta say, I'm really impressed with Slashdot's responsibility in reporting the news.

    Report just one side of the conversation. Let your personal biases come between you and the story. That's the path to responsible journalism.

    How about reporting the fact that the Chairman of the SEC came out and said that this merger was a good thing? He almost never comments on mergers and buyouts, but he commented on this one, and positively at that.

    But I forget, that would conflict with Slashdot's anti-AOL stance.

    -Todd
    ---
  • AOL owns winamp. How does that figure into your argument? wouldn't they be more likely to push MP3/winamp?
  • I misunderstood your argument (the conduit content concept). I thought you were more refering to the idea of CNN carrying news about itself. Personally I don't trust news by a company about itself (or parts thereof). So (to me) NBC can't be trusted for reports on MS, ABC can't be trusted on reports about Disney, CNN couldn't be trusted about reports on its screwup with that report a year or so ago. As for your actual points about conduit and content, while I can see your point, I do not see it as big of a concern as its would seem. Just like TV or Newspapers you can change companies if you choose.
    -cpd
  • Pre-merger they would be more likely to push winamp. Post-merger either winamp gets buried, or, more likely winamp picks up SDMI "features", streaming advertising, etc. Then winamp loses mp3 format capabilities because of "piracy concerns". No reason to kill the program when its user base can be pushed into SDMI...
  • The Katz entry: Are consumers really well served when one company controls more content and access than any other company in the world?

    Well, John, hasn't one company or another always been #1?

    In content or access, yes. Not both at once; that's the problem.
    My God, I'm defending Katz. /me takes a deep breath

    From Brock Meeks: no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit

    Hmmm... guess that puts an end to home delivery of newspapers. And those damn local TV stations better quit doing local newscasts as well.

    Newspapers do not own the streets. TV stations do not own the electromagnetic spectrum.
    Again, you're not thinking this through far enough. The difference is that in your examples, content providers do not control the means of distribution, and therefore cannot prevent anyone else from using them.

    Whether TWAOL would actually try to do such a thing is of course debatable, but the situation is uncomfortable nonetheless. . SNF .

    Steve 'Nephtes' Freeland | Okay, so maybe I'm a tiny itty

  • The most insightful commentary I've seen on the merger so far isn't anything in this article -- it's Robert X. Cringely's [pbs.org] take. Cringely proposes that, rather than seeing the merger as a sign of AOL optimism about its future, it should be seen as a sign of AOL's pessimism, especially regarding the market fortunes of Net companies.

    It makes sense when you think about it. AOL stock has gone through the stratosphere based largely on the idea that AOL is a 'pure Internet play'. Buying a big old media company will end this perception and put a drag on the growth of the stock value. So why should AOL buy Time Warner outright, when they could get the same access to TW content through a less formal partnership, while preserving their hyper-performing stock value?

    Cringely argues that AOL is betting that being a 'pure Internet play' isn't going to be a huge benefit for much longer -- in fact, it may become a liability if and when the market bubble bursts. If that happens, suddenly the Amazons of the world look like awful investments as their valuations are "corrected". But AOL doesn't look as bad, because it's got real-world value based on its ownership of Time Warner's many established brands, as opposed to the purely theoretical value that many Net companies have. In other words, AOL knows that it's had a terrific run at the tables, and it's cashing out its chips and socking the money into the bank before its streak turns sour. It's buying insurance while it can still afford to. It's turning its virtual wealth, represented by stock valuation (which could disappear overnight if the public mentality changed) into real wealth, in the form of Time Warner's media properties (which will hold value no matter how the winds blow).

    Is this the complete rationale behind the merger? Well, probably not. But viewed in this light it sure does look like a vote of no confidence in the Internet Economy on the part of Steve Case & Co.


    -- Jason A. Lefkowitz

  • The whore riding on its back? That would be JonKatz.
  • Yeah, shame shame on me, i'm defending microsoft :)

    hehe, but for real. I would rather see microsoft left alone to run business and let the market pick the winners.

    But DONT let AOL own what i see on TV, how people access the internet and what people see on the internet!

    Don't let anymore "You have new mail" movies, sounds, images, spoofs come out. Dont let AOL get into the long distance business, don't let AOL get access to the miles and miles of fiber in several huge cities around the world.

    My god the incompetance is huge, I feel sorry for the people that will pickup the phone and have to hear commercials now, i feel sorry for people trying to watch tv, but have banner adds going across the screen.

    Even at the least, the spam, the discs being included in everything, the lack of real media attention, the lack of in depth and technical attention, and the people who provide all these very immature feeling services controlling a vast communications and broadcast system

    scarry

  • Chehh... I fail to see how the editor of AOLWatch's comment was in any way showing a bias. It was more an example of a legitimate concern about censorship - if I was running a high volume mailing list dealing with AOL, I wouldn't want it stuck on AOL's spam list due to ideological reasons either. Who knows what else might get censored by AOL through their filters?

    While I'll agree that there's a lot of bad journalism, you're pointing at shadows if you call *this* bias. Bias is ignoring the facts or putting an misleading spin on them.

  • perhaps you misunderstood, when I said "people" I meant it in the exceedingly plural form, like in the millions. Like the 15-20 million people on TW cable, like the 16-20 million people on AOL, not the 50 folks that you hang with. Actually I think the promotion you are talking about is the best kind, but for a new site to attract enough people to obtain a critical mass of traffic it would take years to accumulate what AOL/TW can generate in 10 minutes.

    This merger just makes it harder to compete in media content creation and distrubution, much harder.
  • by zerone (83179) on Thursday January 13, 2000 @12:52PM (#1375843)
    The struggle to survive continues: by 2002, aol/twx/viacom/cbs merges with citi/travelers, consolidating access/content/financial services into an ubermonster that "serves you better". In 2003, it merges with merke/ciba-giegy, adding medication to mass hypnosis, creating unprecedented pocket picking opportunities.. for relatively few.. for the short run.

    In the long haul, shareholder managed mediocracies like these will implode. Their urge to command and control the market will win fewer and fewer hearts. More cooperative competitors will route around the sword of the central censor. Wake up and smell the tsunami.

    Metcalfe's Law describes exponentially increasing returns as more nodes connect to a network. Hence, AOL MSN etc clobber one another to acquire customers, to aggregate eyeballs, with one simple aim: sell them. Customers defect, exploiting titanic price wars. The price for customer acquisition skyrockets. Investors hoping to cash in on tomorrow's loyal customer might just have their bubble popped one of these days..

    Long term loyalty can't be bought. And King Customer grows more powerful by the day. This will profoundly change all business relationships in the free trade of meaningful ideas.

    Does a customer's capacity to store information quadruple every three years? Gilder's Law says there will be 27 times more pipe to share information every three years. So in ten years, TiVo nodes might store 75 times more info, but have 60,000 times the capacity to exchange it, and do so transnationally. Try to regulate it. Go ahead, hire more lawyers.

    What is the technology telling us? Decentralization is bad news for vertically integrated cash registers. It's good news for reintermediators, and creators who avoid selling ownership out to ubercorps. Great news for chaorganized traders.

    Shared ownership in client/server transaction is where it's at. ImagineRadio kinda got it, until they sold out to Viacom. Aolosaurus doesn't get it at all.
  • Unlikely, but I think, journalists will copy wire services releases and add "Me, too" at the end.
  • *Yawn*
    scratcha scratcha scratch
    (checks watch)
    (clicks to refresh Slashdot - no change)
    Sigh.
    (brightens visible)
    (rises from chair and heads to candy/soda machines)

    And that's about it for me. Guess I'm too dumb to appreciate the horror!

  • How about 1, and then using the money you and countless others pay them to _buy_ SBC so it can't come around later and snap you up as a customer?

    Seems like a logical plan to _me_.

  • How many times has Steve Case had to go on his own online service to apologize for delays and problems brought about by a company that prized growth well ahead of honesty and service ?

    This brilliant observation by JonKatz highlights the true danger of the AOL/TW merger, and why it should be stopped, by the (comparatively small, obscure, non-pervasive organization known as the) US Government.

    The AOL/TW plan is clear. First they'll offer the huge flock of sheep known as "American consumers" cheap access to all that TW content. Next they'll make that exclusive access, so nobody who doesn't use the AOL/TW ISP can see TW content.

    Then they'll deliver the final blow: make AOL/TW access so unreliable, so frustrating, that, for most Americans, it'll not be worth even logging on.

    By then, we'll be so mass-hypnotized that we'll believe the only real entertainment comes from AOL/TW, so that when The System doesn't work, it'll never occur to us to:

    • Turn on the TV (besides, AOL/TW will make sure it works only via their Internet access)
    • Turn on the radio (ditto)
    • Use another ISP (AOL/TW will make all other ISPs disappear, or at least appear to from the American consciousness)
    • Read a newspaper
    The end result is that Americans will be completely in the dark about what is going on in their own country, at which point Steve Case et al will use a crack team of hand-picked cyber-terrorists to overthrow the government.

    All Americans will be shown is that, apparently, our new President is a certain well-known rabbit, and, by then, we'll think that's great, for pretty much the same reasons that people like Donald Trump and Warren Beatty are taken seriously as presidential candidates today: because the media has convinced too many of us they're "cool", which we somehow believe == "intelligent", "capable of leadership", etc.

    AOL/TW. The End Is Near. And, by the time it comes, there won't be an NRA-type organization ready to defend your freedom -- the only guns available will be "secured" by high-tech devices that, not coincidentally, get owner-fingerprint-updates from AOL/TW's online database, which'll allow them to disable all guns instantly when The Moment arrives.

    (Yes, this is sarcasm. Fearing AOL/TW on the basis of AOL's "service" is like fearing McDonald's replacing all other restaurants on the basis that McBurgers often have insufficient ketchup.)

  • . . give a shit what Jon Katz thinks.
    _________________________
  • <SARCASM>
    Yeah! Tell it like it is! We all know Rob is the great Satan. He's sold out and joined forces with The Man.

    Damn The Man!

    Damn The Man!
    </SARCASM>

    Jeez, people. Lay off the capitalist-pig conspiracy theories.

  • Forgive me that minor :-) detail. The fact of the matter is that, as pointed out elsewhere, AOL is moving towards this merger as a hedge because of the uncertainty of AOL's future value. I still believe the inception of the deal came about largely because of T/W's content concerns (of course AOL's need for content to hold its user base in light of broadband competition should not be hard to see). The large amount of flexibility in the AOL stock price in the deal points to the fact that they had to give a lot of concessions to partner with T/W. I think in this case "who bought whom" isn't as important as why they were even talking.

  • Some people deny with conviction that the AOL/TW merger will affect them in any way because they are not AOL users, while other claim it is the end of the world. This is a bad thing for many reasons. AOL for a long time has owned only their private network (a glorified virtual private network), then they got into the media game and started buying up high speed internet access. If AOL (or any company) has control of a majority of the data pipes coming into people's houses they control the data coming into people's houses. Now they own alot of pipes, they merge with Time Warner who happen to own a good deal of the data coming through those pipes that AOL owns. Now AOL has the ability to control the wires and the data. Smaller companies will have a real tough time competing with AOL since AOL can get alot of data into the homes and do it cheaper than anyone else. The small companies will have to sell out to MSN or some other huge network so we end up how we started, a handful of huge mega networks providing all of our content.
    After AOL owns as much of the content and home pipes as they can get their hands on, what will stop them from going after huge backbone providers like MCI and AT&T? If they own the backbones of the internet there is no room for competition, the T3 your website is on may be owned by some co-lo company but if the backbone is owned by AOL and they don't like you, you're screwed. Personally I don't want to see content only provided by Disney, AOL, and MSN. We are slowly turning into a giant corporate market. In the future there won't be countries, just different market demographics. The DOJ needs to look into AOL for a monopoly investigation, I don't think any company will buy all the media content they can and then share it in the name of good business.
  • However, word of mouth on the internet (email especially) is a very powerful force. How else can you explain the Mahir phenomenon?

    certain things can gain instant attention. Anybody seen the Hampsterdance [hampsterdance.com]? (on the TV *net commercial) or the Mahir you have referred to, featured on the Daily Show, no less. But, for a viable commercial entity this kind of stuff doesn't work. If I start spamming my friends telling them about how great /. is, I doubt the response will be as good as it would be for something like this [emory.edu]. E-mail friend marketing is only good for a momentary laugh, not a high-speed million dollar long term Internet business.

    And who says the blanket spam/popup/banner ads crap that AOL does are all that effective anyway?

    These guys [pcwebopedia.com] and these guys [webdevelopersjournal.com] and these folks [zdwebopedia.com], (and others that take more than 15 seconds to find) the basic consensus is that these types of ads work better, but annoy folks. Howver, newbies won't realize that these ads should be annoying, will accept them as normal, and outweigh the clued by a large enough margin that media providers like, oh, say, AOL, can ignore user compaints and keep painting my rare earth elements with crap.

    Music is a whole 'nother story, I think we can win that one. And I agree with the big busines imploding idea, IBM is a great example. But, AOL owns ICQ, and Shoutcast, and Winamp (yes, I know about icecast, and *cq and XMMS). I've ranted about this topic enough (check my info page), so I'll stop now.
  • by Roblimo (357)
    These are puzzling comments. We had the first announcement of the AOL/TW merger up within an hour after the first press release was issued Monday.

    Katz did an excellent piece titled "AOL Nation" that ran Tuesday.

    This one is the third one we've done on the subject, generated in part by Katz and in part by all the people from other media who have called CmdrTaco, Hemos, Katz, and me to get our take on the merger.

    The "I submitted this but it didn't get posted" complaint is slightly silly in this case. When I stopped counting Monday morning, the merger story had been submitted by over 200 people, half of whom submitted it *after* we posted it. Another 100+ submitted it Tuesday through Thursday, and I'll bet at least a few more submit it today (Friday).

    As far as spacing out stories to maximize ad banner views, my comment is, "Huh?" Sometimes we'll (manually) set non-time-sensitive stories (especially book reviews and opinion features) to appear a few hours or a day or three in advance, but breaking news generally goes up as soon as it gets submitted and one of us sees it in the submission queue.

    - Robin
  • by Roblimo (357) on Friday January 14, 2000 @03:52AM (#1375892) Homepage Journal
    "Bottom line, their biases are showing. Painfully."

    Perhaps their biases are showing because I asked all these people to give their *personal opinions" on possible effects of the AOL/TW merger - from their *personal* perspectives.

    The AOLWatch guy (surprise!) talks about how AOL censors content. The Amiga.org guy (another big surprise, eh?) talks from the perspective of an Amiga advocate. Alice Hill @ C|Net (gasp!) speaks from the perspective of an editorial honcho for a mainstream online/cable TV news source that already has close ties to AOL. Local TV news guy Marty Bass (I'm going to faint...) discusses how AOL+TW might/might not affect local TV news. And Jon Katz speaks from the viewpoint of (hard to believe) ... Jon Katz. As usual. And Brock Meeks is enough of an old-line reporter and general hard case to speak his own mind even when his opinions might not be shared by his bosses at MSNBC. Or by MS or NBC.

    I hate bad journalism myself. But I also remember that in most people's eyes, "good" journalism is journalism that agrees with their personal biases 100%. And Glub forbid a journalist should have an opinion of his or her own and share it freely with Slashdot readers without getting it cleared and blanded down by a corporate PR department!

    Do I sound biased here? Damn right!!!

    And proud of it. ;-)

    - Robin


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