I don’t know Randy Falco or Ron Grant, but I wish them luck. The NYT says they have a long view of AOL, everything I read says AOL’s is going to be cleaned up and sold.
My advice to both men: start blogging today. AOL was a very closed culture when we got there a year ago, and blogging is what really pulled the company into the Web world. There are dozens of important folks in the company having honest discussions on blogs and the best way for you two to build AOL is to embrace the culture of honesty, transparency, and debate. Blogging is the best medium for this. Take a page from Microsoft and let all your team members blog, and even pay some folks to be company bloggers. Let it all hang out, let the marketplace tell you where to go, and be open about everything–the good and the bad.
Even though I was at AOL for only a year it felt like home. ~50 members of “my team” are still rocking it out at Netscape, WeblogsInc, and Blogsmith, and I really hope the new guys recognize the amazing potential those groups have and continue to invest in them.
Weblogs, Inc. has grown into an eight figure business at AOL over the past year and I think it could be a nine figure business if they keep investing in it. Easily.
Netscape has continued to advance and grow since the bottom out in October. It takes 2-3 years to build an online community like Netscape, not three to six months. Social news is the future and Netscape is in first or second position on every important factor in that race (along with digg). To give up now would be such a wasted opportunity (especially since there are 500 folks trying to get into the top five slots right now!). I mean, Conde Nast just bought reddit–a distant 3rd or 4th to Netscape and digg.
Blogsmith is a fantastic platform that could rival TypePad and WordPress in the market place if AOL put some muscle behind it. Brian is a genius and AOL should really pull him in to the senior management team–guys like him don’t wind up in big companies often.
Anyway, I’ve got to get back to my day job… I don’t work for AOL anymore but I still spend 2-3 hours a day thinking about and talking to the folks who run those businesses. Giving them advice (solicited and unsolicited), and participating in and using those fine services and products.
Randy & Ron: If you every need any free advice on them or want to grab lunch you know how to reach me. Good luck and please take care of my babies.