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AOL Planning Move to Ad-Supported Model 161

garzpacho writes "In recognition of the fact that its subscriber-based revenues continue to plummet, AOL is planning to shift to an ad-supported business model. AOL's subscriber base, which peaked at 30 million users, now has less than 19 million subscribers and is still dropping — over 800,000 subscribers dropped the service in this year's first quarter alone. In addition to seeing fewer AOL CDs, a shift to ad revenue also means some serious cuts in staff size, especially in the customer service and retention departments. From the article: 'Time Warner plans to announce a series of changes at AOL that analysts say will mark the end of the company's paid-subscriber model. The company will begin relying on advertising sales rather than monthly fees paid by customers, according to the Wall Street Journal. 'I don't know whether advertising will work, but my thinking is (the changes) are basically an acceptance of what is happening,' says Joseph Bonner, a media and telecommunications analyst at Argus Research. 'This is a reflection of reality, that they have to find some other source of revenue.''"
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AOL Planning Move to Ad-Supported Model

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  • What's the Draw? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:39AM (#15825177)
    It seems to me that AOL is looking at the search engine model and trying to copy it. The only problem is that AOL has absolutely nothing to "draw" people in the way google does. It's kind of backwards actually. AOL continues to offer bloatware, horrible customer service, a poor product, and is now going to try adding advertisement into the deal to save itself. Google offers a top notch search engine with innovative product that makes people WANT to come, and now they are looking at offering broadband and becoming their own ISP..... AOL needs to fix it's business model and offer something compelling. If you're not drawing people advertisements won't do much.
    • Free internet is a draw for most people. Of course, once they get hooked on it they will want to upgrade to a service that is actually fast and usable...
      • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:36PM (#15825575)

        What makes you think the Internet service itself would be free? As people started switching to broadband, AOL has become more of a "value added" thing you subscribe to on top of your Internet connection (they call it "bring your own access," IIRC).

        Considering the failure of stuff like NetZero (which is now more like Net$10 instead), I would think AOL would know better than to try to support modem access for free -- but then again, they may actually be that stupid.

      • I don't think they're planning on offering internet access for free.

        My understanding of this whole transition is that part of dropping the "subscription model" includes getting rid of ISP operations, or drastically scaling them back. That's probably a lot of the staff they're thinking of firing; all the people that manage the dialup infrastructure and customer service / support.

        The key here is that AOL doesn't want to be an ISP anymore. They want to be a content provider, not an access provider. Access is a
    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:47AM (#15825241) Journal
      It seems to me that AOL is looking at the search engine model and trying to copy it.
      Looks more like the magazine model to me. And like the magazine industry, likely to not do so well in the long run -- there is just way too much free content out there easily available. AOL makes its living off:
      (1) People who don't know better (who, BTW, are excellent targets for ads for the same reason they know no better)
      (2) People who don't want to let go of their email address.

      Finally, as we see minority browsers get market share, especially Firefox (with its ease of customization and extendability), subscription web portals are becoming less and less useful -- moreso as the population becomes more facile with the internet and computers in general.
    • by kilgortrout ( 674919 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:00PM (#15825335)
      Time-Warner owns a lot of content that might be a draw.
    • What's the draw? I now have a free AIM Phoneline account that is very useful. They also have a nice e-mail service (that does not top GMail, however).
    • Re:What's the Draw? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 6ULDV8 ( 226100 )
      "If you're not drawing people advertisements won't do much."

      This is entirely untrue. Advertising has become increasingly common on AOL and is a factor in driving customers away. So it will have an effect, just not the effect they are hoping for.
    • it seems to me that the draw to AOL was that it was easy for all of the not-so-computer-savvy poeple to use. you always heard people asking things like "what's your screen name" because all they knew was AOL, they didn't even know the internet existed beyond that. now-a-days people are becoming more computer savvy and there's less a need for the user friendliness of AOL, and as such people aren't willing to put up with the terrible customer service that comes along with it.
    • Indeed. This may not be the deepest analysis I can muster, but isn't the exodus from AOL in part because of their annoying and obtrusive barrage of ads?

      AOL was afraid of becoming the next Compuserve, so they're rushing headlong into becoming the next Prodigy. Way to go.

    • You are so wrong.

        AOL software is easier to use for newbies. And those is still many people who still don't own a computer.

        Google does not cater to newbies to computers or ones who just don't have the time to learn how to use a computer well. Another reason Linux will never dominate OS market.

      AOL software maybe bloatware but it's easy to use. And it gives windows users everything they need. I wish AOL would switch to Netscape browser though.

  • by Blimey85 ( 609949 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:40AM (#15825182)
    My sister uses AOL and a few months ago one of her friends called AOL to cancel his service. He told the customer service rep that he couldn't afford the service any longer and was then asked how much he could afford. He said he could afford ten bucks a month and the rep asked if he would continue his service if they would lower his cost to $10. He then called my sister and told her what happened. She called AOL, got the same question, and told the person she could only afford "maybe $7 or $8 a month" and now pays $7 per month for her service. Of course she told everyone else she knows that uses AOL.

    I know a lot of companies do this but most companies aren't a network of people that like nothing more than to sit around all day bs'ing on the web.

  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:40AM (#15825185) Journal
    Ad supported? It was the ads that made me quit AOL a few years ago. I got 60 spams per day in my AOL inbox, and there was no way to filter than other than to add a complete individual URL to the spam filter.
    • I've used AOL for about 30 minutes over the last 10 or so years. I recently watched as an older relative used it and couldn't get over how many times they had to click "no thanks" to various pop ups and ads just to do basic email and web chores. AOL needs to die. Perhaps they'll linger on by just selling people the ability to forward their old aol mail address to their new provider....
    • I'm suprised you actually could quit. []

      AOL: Alright, some day when you calmed down you're gonna realize that all I was trying to do was help you... and it was actually in your best interest to listen to me.

      Fucking pathetic.

  • Fear. Lots of Fear. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doches ( 761288 ) <Doches&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:40AM (#15825189)
    Am I alone in thinking that this is rather bad news? We're talking about a company with a ludicrously aggressive subscription-acquisition-and-retention policy, remember -- how much worse (i.e., ad-saturated) is the web going to become once AOL becomes a major platform for adversiting?
    • It will not be bad at all because nobody will go the AOL properties to see the ads.
    • What AOL doesn't seem to understand is that their reputation is permanently damaged. It seems like they are trying to completely redesign their company, and perhaps they can actually deliver a good product. They might be able to make a great video service, a great search engine, a great web portal, etc. However, I am not going to use it just because of the name AOL. I have learned to avoid it like the plague because putting an AOL disc into my CD drive means I probably need to reformat in order to get rid o
      • AOL is perfectly aware of how bad their rep is. That's why everything they do now is branded 'AIM []'. Like OpenAim [] to allow third parties to make AIM clients, and AIMPages [], their new blogging software. They also have AIM mail accounts on the AOL Webmail system [], which uses the same spam filter and storage system (which may have been lame in 2002, but now is a leader in features and capability) as the in-client AOL mail service.

        Of course, they tried to do this with Netscape (as their answer to NetZero) too,
  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:40AM (#15825193) Homepage

    It's over AOL, the days of dialup are gone and people will eventually be using DSL or Cable provided by their locality. I for one am impressed that AOL even exists. I mean seriously, who uses AOL? []
    • One can only hope. The biggest scourge to hit the internets were the legions of AOL users set free in a place they couldn't comprehend. Of course that didn't stop them from destroying it for the rest of us. The death of AOL can't come too soon for my liking. A pox upon them!
    • The origional Draw to AOL for its popularity was the fact that AOL software did the graphics stuff relitivly fast (For the time) and offered services that you couldn't get with with BBS's (the old ones not the Message boards). After the Internet started to become popular with Dialup AOL was still doing good because it offered a competitive price and it still had a lot of AOL only features, and buisness relationships, heck it is much cheaper and profitable to put your buisness on the internet vs. trying to
      • And some people (like my wife's parents) use it because they use their aol address for their business mail, and so moving away from that would be such a pain in the ass that it's just not worth it. And I'm not talking about just backing up the older mail. I'm talking about redistributing your contact email to thousands of people and clients.
    • I mean seriously, who uses AOL?

      Not to be cliche, but suckers use AOL, which ties in perfectly with advertising, as follows:

      1) Create ISP/crappy web portal/email service.
      2) Make sure you're substandard.
      3) Advertise the heck out of your substandard service.
      4) Compile a list of those suckers that signed up for your service despite better, cheaper alternatives, and make sure you have a way to get content in front of them (see 1, above).
      5) Sell advertising space targeting your pre-filtered-for-susceptibility-
    • I mean seriously, who uses AOL?

      People like my sister and her friends. She knows pertty much nothing about a computer other than how to get AOL fired up so she can chat or check her email. For her AOL is great. For people like you and I it just gets in the way and as people learn more about computers, they have less reliance on services like AOL.

      I'm surprised that AOL never had an internet appliance like WebTV from MS. My Dad has one of those and he loves it. Unfortunately the newer version is designed f

    • You do know not everyone lives in a major city right?
    • It's over AOL, the days of dialup are gone and people will eventually be using DSL or Cable provided by their locality. I for one am impressed that AOL even exists. I mean seriously, who uses AOL?

      Well, I use it mainly because it is more than a 1/3 the price of DSL or Cable. I hate dail-up, but I can live with it rather than pay more than $60 for internet. I honestly think "broadband" internet shouldn't cost more than $10 a month, but I'll live with about $20 a month. 60*12=$720 a year 20*12=$240. $720-$240=
      • True. Dialup is far from dead. It'll be here for a long time to come. There are still people who live outside of the areas that dsl/cable can reach, and satellite hookup is too expensive. Some people are just interested in checking forums and reading emails instead of videos and other streaming media. And a dialup connection is still the best way to kick an addiction to pr0n...
      • Well, AT&T is offering DSL for $13/mo with 1 year contract, no phone service necessary, but not every area can get it. My family was on dialup for a long time -- not because we couldn't afford cable/DSL, but for the same reason you don't eat at nice restauraunts every day, they didn't need it (of course, *I* really wanted it, but ... yeah).

        Thi was when it was still $15/mo. They did force us to upgrade to the $17/mo higher speed package after our year was up, but it's still pretty affordable vs dialup. W
    • I did have a wonderful post here, but Opera crashed, and I lost it all.

      Just imagine what I had to say about AOL, Windows, and etc.

      I didn't get to post it before everything vanished into thin air.
  • by Reverend528 ( 585549 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:41AM (#15825196) Homepage
    AOL blocked 0 spam e-mails today!
  • Is this effective? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by winnabago ( 949419 )
    How deep does the banner advertising market go? I can't imagine that there is that much advertising-per-desktop to go around, with adwords already out there thriving. In simple supply/demand terms, instead of subscribers bolting, you will see cost per click plummet.
  • With that many people fighting tooth and nail the service reps who are bent on not letting them go, it's no wonder that the world is so full of negative karma.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:43AM (#15825208) Journal
    The company will begin relying on advertising sales rather than monthly fees paid by customers

    AOL doesn't exactly have a reputation for its great "content". What fans it does have, it has for making the internet accessible to complete technophobes.

    So perhaps I misunderstand their use of the word "advertising", but what, exactly, do they plan to advertise with?

    Somehow, I just can't see big money rolling in to put banners across the top of "my cat fluffy's homepage" or the literally millions of what amount to the web equivalent of "is this thing on?".

    But good luck to 'em. As much as I hate TW, and have traditionally made fun of A-O-Lusers, it saddens me to see the last of the original great ISPs slowly dying off.
    • Well the one thing I do use is their free XM radio...
    • As much as I hate TW

      I don't hate Time-Warner for one reason: DVD.

      Back in the early days of DVD, they were the only studio that whole-heartedly supported the format. They were the first to stick their necks out and remaster their films with anamorphic transfers, the first to do special edition DVD's, the first to do dual-layered DVD's, the first to break the $20 mark for new releases, etc. Without them sticking their necks out for the format, studios like Paramount and Fox might still be getting away with

      • DVD was without a doubt an inevitability, not necessarily for the superior quality, but for the physical format. Everyone hated tapes, and the market was screaming for an optical disc solution akin to CD's. Without TW, we might have gotten stuck with VCD's or worse yet some Sony format, though Sony in their grand tradition would have found a way to drive it into the ground after 3 or so years.

  • Good Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:43AM (#15825209)
    In addition to seeing fewer AOL CDs, a shift to ad revenue also means some serious cuts in staff size, especially in the customer service and retention departments

    So, basically, people fed up with getting abused by their paltry customer service quit, and they lose money. To solve the problem, they shift to ad based revenue, cutting retention and service, pissing off even more people via the further reduced service who then quit, allowing them to shift to even more ad-based revenue.

    It's brilliant I say! Brilliant! They've perfected some sort of perpetual money machine here!
    • In addition to seeing fewer AOL CDs ...
      What am I going to use to put my tea on when there are no more AOL CD's?
      • They'll be at the cash registers next to the Earthlink CD's and the Wal-mart ISP CD's and....etc. They just won't come in the mail. Since they are free, you can get a matching set by swiping the whole box at once.

  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:45AM (#15825221) Journal
    If the speculation and news reports prove correct, AOL's changes would be ambitious indeed. But will they go far enough, and is it possible for AOL to regain its past heft? "Will the advertising revenue ever replace dial-up?" says Bonner. "I'm not sure when and if that will ever happen. In the dial-up world, you could be all things to everybody--that worked. Now AOL needs to focus." Adds Helfstein: "The question is: What can AOL do for customers that can convince you to stop using Google or Yahoo as your homepage?"

    It's safe to say that AOL has died, but the body doesn't know it yet. At one time it was a lot of people's portal to the Internet, especially in the pre-DSL days, but now I can't honestly understand why anyone keeps it. With on-demand Internet connections and browsers readily available, there's no need for this cheesy portal application, unless you're stuck using dial-up, but those numbers continue to fall rapidly.

    AOL never saw the forest for the trees -- popularizing the Internet forced up connection speeds and access, and eventually they were outstripped by Yahoo, Google, and everyone else.People got tired of being kicked off and having to log back on, or paying too much on their phone bill because their "local" number was anything but. Once AOL had a large enough subscriber base, and once all those folks got a taste of the true Internet, they made demands that AOL couldn't meet, and so now they are soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history. There may come a time when people won't remember what the "A" in AIM stands for, and then AOL will be truly gone.

    • Quite frankly the whole concept of using some specific portal or search engine page as ones 'homepage' is completely moronic, IMNSHO. My browser opens to a blank screen, and then I either type in or select from bookmarks what site I need to see. Why does everyone think the Internet needs some sort of 'main menu'? There isnt one, and there never will be - get over it.

      As far as dialup, it isnt going anywhere soon (Telco and Cableco have very little interest to serve rural areas), but there are *far* better op
      • I disagree.

        I got my mother off aol by buying her a dial up and setting the default homepage to yahoo. Over several months I got her addicted to their stupid card games. It worked except she still has trouble going to a url. She actually types in "keywords" into yahoo to get to sites. It sucks in the sense i got her to trade one short bus to the internet for another, but at least its cheaper. She laughs at my dad who still requires aol to do anything. (they're divorced)

        In my case, I'm technically savvy
    • re: Why keep AOL? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 )
      I always wonder myself, why people keep AOL. But then I look at a number of my customers who still use it.... In one case, it's a gradeschool teacher who is barely computer-literate, but expected to have her own email address in this day and age. She does the vast majority of her emailing on her Treo phone that a Sprint rep. informed her about and showed her how to use - and AOL actually is supported in the "Versamail" application included with the phone. Her worst nightmare would be having to switch t
  • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:45AM (#15825222)
    Here's my prediction of what is going to happen:

    Everybody who is dumb enough to use AOL keeps using it, but doesn't pay.

    The true cheapskates of the world sign-up, but since they are cheapskates, the advertising really isn't going to work on them very well. Advertisers abandon AOL.

    AOL ends up dying. Thank God.

  • Ads are invasive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cpoff ( 991199 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:46AM (#15825227)
    I know, especially in this community, Im not the only one that finds advertisements everywhere quite invasive. Im not just talking about the internet either, branding and advertising is -everywhere-. With so many online vendors changing to/emphasizing ad-supported revenue streams, I have a feeling this is going to impact sales negatively in the long run...

    It gets to a point where I see so much advertising, I dont even notice it. I know sub-conciously its supposed to be planting the seeds in my mind to buy things, but my spending habits have not changed other then necessities since I first started making money... I just see this method as a failure in the long run. I think the business of the future will be successful first due to customer service, and a very close second on quality of the product. Everyone is so connected now due to the internet, word of mouth advertising should become more and more viable as a primary advertisement source, and we can finally have our mental space back...
  • Ah-ha! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Doches ( 761288 ) <Doches&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:46AM (#15825233)
    Looks like all those AOL customers have gone AWOL!

  • We've come a long way from the 'walled garden' model, haven't we, AOL?

    Yes... we think you've had a good run, but perhaps it's time to take a rest, hmm? You've been working really hard.

    Just lay down here and have some delicious kool-aid.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:50AM (#15825265)
    "Don't worry about that broadband nonsense. It's just a passing fad."


  • Not that I have ever used AOL, but unfortunately some family memebers I support do... and their number one complaint is that "my internet is so slow". So now they will get double slammed with ads, AOL's and whatever webpage they decide to look at. I'm sure they will be thrilled.

    I have a better idea for AOL. Make your service something people actually want. Make it fast, make it simple, make it cheap, and most of all make it about the customer rather than your thinning wallets. I would have no problem s
  • Instead of 'only morons use AOL', now it will be 'only cheap morons use AOL' :P

    Really, how many times have you seem some business' comercial on tv, or businesscard on a bullten board (the old fashion kind with cork and pins), and it had an @AOL.COM email address, and thought 'how tacky and unprofessional?'
  • Pure Crap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:53AM (#15825284) Homepage

    I'm sorry, but that's what AOL is. I've had the displeasure of having to deal with them for YEARS.

    I'll just be nice and ignore the fact that they bought and killed The Imagination Network, which was a blast.

    Let's talk about their software. Their software that, to this day, takes like 30 seconds to start up, if it's feeling fast. Their software that often crashes after closing so when you think it's gone it's actually there sucking up 100% (happens almost daily on one of our computers). Let's talk about their integrated software suite that made since back when no one had a web browser but is now just an annoying piece of bloat-ware that should have been replaced 5 years ago minimum.

    But they are going ad supported. You don't say. You'd think they were now based on using their software. In the last few years, they have gone to incredible lengths to cram ads on EVERY SINGLE SCREEN they display. Your mailbox? It has ads. Reading an e-mail? It has ads. Their welcome screen? Ads.

    About a month ago, they started something new. When you exit AOL... an ad comes up. But it isn't just some little ad. It's as big as the welcome screen and it always seems to be for AOL.

    But wait, it gets better.. that ad has a close button. And AOL doesn't exit until you press it. That means that choosing "exit" from the file menu DOESN'T EXIT AOL. This also seems to happen before you log off, so good luck if you don't have an unlimited plan for some reason and you forget about this.

    I can only tell you from having to support my parents on AOL for the last 5 years or so (they've been members longer, it just wasn't so bad before) that AOL is a NIGHTMARE. It's amazingly slow. It crashes. If it gets screwed up (and it has) reinstalling often doesn't fix it. When you upgrade, it makes a new folder in Program Files and leaves the old version there, but deletes the shortcuts to it. Nothing like looking at someone's computer and seeing 5 copies of AOL. They continually add terrible software that only slows things down OUTSIDE AOL like their virus protection (we already that had), their firewall (WE ALREADY THAT HAD), and more. And there is something to be said for a program that keeps ALL the users downloaded files in some random directory by default. That was acceptable back in the Windows 3.1 days, but ever since Windows 95 those thins are supposed to be in My Documents. But instead, this are spread across the computer. Can't find a file? Did you open it in AOL? Then it isn't where it should be, it's in C:\Program Files\America Online 9.0 Security Slowdown Edition\Something\Or\Other. Also, what other e-mail client DELETES THE MESSAGES YOU'VE READ? You read a message, and when you log off it gets moved to "Read Meassages" or something like that. And the stuff in that folder, seems to get deleted. I don't know if it is the next time you log off, or after 1 week, or what. But if you don't specifically save it somewhere or keep choosing "Keep as new" (what my parents use) then it will go away FOREVER.

    I've tried to switch my parents off. I've tried to get them to use IE or FireFox (instead of their constant problems in AOL). I've tried to move them over to GMail. I think I'm getting closer. I can't tell you how much easier my life would be without AOL.

    Ah, AOL. You only outlived your usefulness about 7 years ago. All you've done since then is make things worse for everyone else. You were good at one point. It's telling that you've been hemmoraging subscribers for years, and the only way you managed to stay around during the boom (when EVERYONE was buying computers) was by generating 0.5% of all trash in the US with those stupid CDs that were put in EVERY MAGAZINE PRINTED.

    Oh, yeah, then there is the Time Warner merger. That was a stroke of genius, huh.

    Anyway, the point of this whole rambling anti-AOL post was that AOL already puts ads everywhere. Either their are raking in the cash and don't need the subscriber fees, or they are going to be in trouble when they do this because there is nowhere else to put ads except video ads in the background of the AOL window.

    • but ever since Windows 95 those thins are supposed to be in My Documents

      It's been a long time since I last used Win95 (thankfully), but I believe that "My Documents" was introduced in Windows 2000 (although an equivalent, differently named system was used in NT, of course).

      Other than that, I agree - applications shouldn't be spraying user-specific files all over the filesystem.
    • Anyway, the point of this whole rambling anti-AOL post was that AOL already puts ads everywhere

      I haven't used AOL in 10+ years and I remember the ads. They were always trying to sell something.
  • Uh oh (Score:2, Interesting)

    Now how are they [] going to reach their goal?
  • by merc ( 115854 ) <> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:54AM (#15825293) Homepage
    Due to plummeting sales Mcdonalds announced plans to add dirt to their menu.

  • No matter what method it tries to use to separate thier customers from thier hard-earned dinero, it's still AOL.

    Same lousy service, same reputation as the dumbed-down "Intar-web thingy", same monthly shipment of drink coasters... er, I mean CDs.

    This almost looks like NetZero's early dialup model... but it's still the same old AOL.

    Not for me... thanks anyway.

    • Actually AOL is trying to shift who their customers are. Instead of trying to charge fools to look at regurgitated information that is available for free on the Internet, they want to charge advertisers for the opportunity to regurgitate their advertising directly at the fools.

      Basically, they want to try to emulate Google, but without the respect or 'do no evil' motto.
  • 1990 called (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AnalogDiehard ( 199128 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:58AM (#15825316)
    AOL is irrelevant and obsolete.

    They still run on telephone modem due to restrictions imposed by the FTC from the TW/AOL merger - AOL cannot use TW's cable resources unless TW opens their pipes to competitors (which they have refused to do).

    No geek of any stature would even think of subscribing to AOL and there is a uncomplimentory generalization of AOL members when they post to a forum.

    AOL's solution to the spam problem is a whitelist which you have to pay a fee to send mail to.

    If you send an email to an AOL account that is dead, you don't get a bounce so you have no feedback if your friend received it. Over time people stop bothering to email to any AOL account.

    There are better alternatives to AIM and it has no place in the office. TW tried to make AIM the corporate messaging standard and it failed miserably.

    AOL is on the blacklist at corporation IT departments. AOL software takes over your PC and requires a complete reinstall to remove it, which is not a favorite pasttime of IT.

    AOL does everything possible to keep their members in their "walled garden" - you cannot even change the home page in the AOL browser, it is fixed at AOL dot com.

    There is a growing backlash against aggressive mass marketing and people are getting tired of AOL junk mail CDs landing in their mailbox.

    AOL goes to great lengths to prevent members from unsubscribing. Frustrated customers will tell all there friends to stay away from AOL. That's not how you build loyalty.

    Someone please tell me how a shift to advertising revenue model is going to solve all this.

    • AOL is irrelevant and obsolete.

      In my book, AOL became obsolete the day they started sending their spam on useless CDs instead of floppy disks. They switched from being my free supply of removable media to becoming a totally useless annoyance. You'd think that they'd at least have the courtesy of sending their junk on CD-R/Ws, but no, all they sent was shiny coasters.

    • They still run on telephone modem due to restrictions imposed by the FTC from the TW/AOL merger - AOL cannot use TW's cable resources unless TW opens their pipes to competitors (which they have refused to do).

      This is no longer accurate; Time Warner has been allowing competing providers to sell broadband service that traverses TW cable lines... And AOL is definitely among the providers sharing the lines. Here are a couple of ARP packets that just came over my Time Warner RoadRunner connection:


  • redundant? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by paulsomm ( 92946 )
    "planning to shift to an ad-supported business model"

    Considering the amount of ads paid-subscribers endure, I'd say it's been effectively "ad-supported" for a decade now. At least, from an end-user perspective there will likely be no obvious change in AOL's appearance/presentation.

    Unless they plan to replace what little remaining unique content they have with ads . . .
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:58AM (#15825321)
    Does this mean that they won't let you cancel AOL unless you buy from an advertiser?
  • This is another move towards the "Web2.0ization" of AOL (pardon the horrible neologism, but I had to find something!).
    Given the recent relaunch of Netscape, and the launch of AIMpages, it seems AOL is trying to restructure itself before it's too late.

    This should be expected, considering last year's investment from Google, as well as their continuing decline in market share.

    It seems AOL is trying to become an all-in-one solution for the Web2.0 era.
    The problem is, what does this exactly imply for their users?
  • ...And we hated it the first time ...When it was called Prodigy.
  • A slow, painful and quiet death. The days of the Kindergarten are over. Let's put AOL alongside Prodigy and Compuserve in some museum so we can reminisce on 386 processors and 9600 baud modems.

  • I thought they were already? What else do they call it when my parents need to click 'no' on three to four pop-up ads when they login?
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:21PM (#15825470)

    Dwindling user base? Here's the cure.

    Flood them with mandatory advertising through your connection client. I'm sure that lots of modem using people are going to be double-plus happy waiting all that extra time downloading megabytes of extra rich shockwave advertising content at 56k, and then wading through it all just to get their email. Freaking brilliant.

  • by Vengie ( 533896 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:24PM (#15825487)
    They will switch you to the free plan now. I have a number of people for whom I manage their "internets!@#@@!!" and have finally gotten around to getting them all comfortable with gmail. I've had them in the "walled garden" for a while (14.95 a month AOL over Broadban plan) -- when I called to cancel for each one of them, AOL offered the same "we'll give you the service free" shtick. So if you're still using AOL, might as well take advantage now. (No clue what happens when the program is discontinued)
    • I'd just as soon not do that, and not have a contract with them. Because in the corporate world, Free isn't always Free, and doesn't always stay Free.

      Problem is, they probably won't let you do that. Have you tried? "I'm sorry, sir, but if you'd just let me help you..."
      • post was targeted at people that deal with AOL subscribers already. These are people already paying 24.95 or 14.95 a month. I am sure a number of /.ers deal with AOL users in their capacities as "that geek guy I call" -- I wasn't attempting to convert you to the dark side.
        I don't even know what you meant by "they probably won't let you do that" -- in the past 72 hours, I've switched over 12 people to "free" and have printouts of the confirmation email (for backup, obviously).
        This is free as i
        • Oops, sorry, I meant, probably wouln't let you quit outright if you don't want the free stuff.

          I realize you weren't targeting me. I don't necessarily mean me. I'd encourage those for whom I'm a "geek guy to call" to either detach completely from AOL, or watch their bills very, very closely in case the "free" becomes no longer free.

          One big motivator: "I promise I won't force you to learn anything other than Gmail, but if you continue to use AOL for your email, I won't help you when you have problems."

  • Every internet wannabe buisiness loves the subscription service. All the music companies and movie studios are always trying to push it and they have a random analyst quote saying how great/perfect/wonderful the subscription model is for this company.

    All the subscription companies are failing. itunes has their service and the people have voted with their wallets - the people are not attracted to the drm or subscription lock in service but guess what - AOL is dying, the myriad subscription music services a
  • I can't understand why they completely missed out on preparing for broadband. It's not like they couldn't see it coming and they had time to position themselves after the Time Warner buyout. All they could come up with was some lame cross branding arrangement with other broadband providers. I can only guess that the AOL management has just gone to seed and is looking to cashout.
  • Ok, I know this is going to be a wildly unpopular position with this audience, but AOL is not the anti-christ some of you make it out to be. How could it be, if Microsoft is? There can only be one. And, it does serve a valid and vital purpose; it keeps 19 million technophobes out of OUR hair.

    There's no way we're going to keep uncle Homer and aunt Ginny off the web, and no real reason to want to. I can't remember the last time a search engine returned a page of someone's blurry photos of their cat. What w

    • I use AOL in the UK and can honestly say I have never had a problem with them at all. I am on ADSL+, have only had one days interrupted service in 5 years (which was a BT problem anyway), there are no caps and I have not experienced any traffic shaping, multiplayer gaming latency has been very low and very reliable. Maybe it's different in the USA but here in dear old blighty things appear to be very much different. Okay I have no need of their software (AOL 8 ad nauseum) and never installed any versions of
    • I agree, for all of their faults AOL is good for those who need an idiot-proof internet. Make fun of those install CDs all you want, but there really is no better way to get online for someone who has no familiarity with computers whatsoever. Problem is, the number of those people are quickly dwindling.

      (And seriously, all you AOL-haters, when's the last time you used it? Or really, had any dealings with AOL whatsoever? I go years without noticing they even still exist.)

      By the way, I do have one more thi
  • by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:50PM (#15826261) Journal
    Yes, because nothing helps keep a customer more then poor customer service and a lack of people trained to keep the customers. Then again, I do remember their tactics "Oh stay, here let us give you 6 months free." Six months later "Oh stay, here let us give you 6 months free." Followed by someone saying "I noticed on january you accessed this much, and on February that much" - which really makes me you know happy.

    AOL just has a rep, and not a great rep. Nobody wants their crappy interface anymore which is bloatware.
  • Find out why people are leaving and cater to them. They should have dumped the front end to the service ages ago.
  • One word to AOL execs: SELL! Sell this ship before someone realizes it has a gaping hole in it.
  • I could get fired for this but here goes:

    I'm one of those evil AOL "retention" agents except I'm not an idiot like the guy in the recording you all heard a few weeks ago. It is astounding how things have changed here at the AOL call center since the incident with the cancellation call recording being on the Today Show. A few weeks ago they would fire you for not hammering the hell out of these people calling to cancel. They expected us to "save" every single caller and lying was acceptible and encouraged
    • Thank you. In my earlier post, some holier-than-thou ass tried to imply that "AOL wouldn't really let you do that." I legitimately was going to cancel the account of one of the "nice little old ladies" I take care of, and was given this offer. I immediately did the same for all the people that call me from time to time, even sending out emails to old acquaintances.... I think AOL has a real shot to save itself. They have a decent amount of cash and have hired some smart people -- just like Microsoft go
  • Wasn't one of the reasons Tech Bubble burst because companies relied too heavily on ads? I just hope AOL deploys content and user preference based ads.
  • 1. Find people are leaving your service because in doesn't provide any added value in this day and age
    2. Further decrease the value of the service by diluting it with ads
    3. ???
    4. Profit!!


  • Welcome to the year 2000. Now get lost aoHELL. Nobody needs you, ando nobody cares that you're history.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde