ADOTAS – Back in 2008 a friend employed at AOL gave me one of her sweet ice-level seats for the AOL Employee Appreciation Night Washington Capitals game — along with the Washington Bullets (Natives refuse to call them the Wizards!), AOL Vice Chairman Emeritus Ted Leonsis owns a large stake in DC’s hockey team. Since AOL had recently upped and moved its headquarters from nearby Loudoun County, Va., to NYC — and was shedding employees like a shaggy dog in August, I was half-expecting to see pink slips laid out on the seats.
You’re fired — enjoy the game before you file for unemployment! Not quite, but the AOL section was hardly filled at all.
Though AOL’s days of massive layoffs seem to be behind it, I had some deja vu today when it was reported not one but two prominent execs were flying to coop. According to Silicon Alley Insider, Senior Finance Executive Kami Ragsdale is leaving to join the ad strategy company Invision, which happens to be CEOed by Lynda Clarizo. Clarizo led Advertising.com and then was president of the now-deceased Platform-A joining Invision in 2009.
But the big fish taking off is Marty Moe (yes, just like my friend Jonny Leather, that’s his real name), senior vice president of the Media Unit’s News & Information Group nine-year AOL veteran. An internal memo comments that Moe was “one of the original champions of opening up AOL’s content and products to all users on the web at large as the company transitioned to an ad-supported media business.” In particular, Moe was a strong force behind AOL’s premium branded content on sites such as Engadget, DailyFinance and WalletPop, SAI noted, initiatives that conflicted with the Seed contributed content dream.
Interestingly, the rumors were that Moe’s boss David Eun — president of Media and Studios and a YouTube vet, who replaced evacuee Bill Wilson in February only a few months after the big spinoff — would be taking off, as he’d bumped shoulders with recent management and strategy moves.
AOL’s big comeback angle is all about selling premium ads around hot content. Recently the company announced ad revenue fell 27% year over year in the second quarter, with total display revenue down 13% or $18 million. However, AOL estimated that 17% or $70 million of $110 million in lost ad revenue were a result of self-enforced initiatives. Still a revolving door of top talent does not breed confidence — exhibit A: MySpace.
To sum up my opening anecdote, the Capitals won that night — they do feature that beacon of awesomeness known as Alex Ovechkin — and my friend wasn’t laid off from AOL until a few weeks later.