Verizon purchased AOL for $4.4 billion — and in what can only be described as a leap of faith, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam announced “AOL has once again become a digital trailblazer.”
By digital trailblazer, McAdam probably doesn’t mean the 2 million dial-up subscribers that still use AOL. Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget — they’re all owned by AOL, not to mention the company’s homepage that someone in your family probably still uses. Most media outlets are pretty sure they’re the reason why Verizon is so keen on AOL…as well as the sweet, sweet ad revenue those blogs bring in.
All of this, of course, brings to mind the last time AOL merged with another megacompany, Time Warner in 2000. AOL would bring more eyeballs to the deal, as well as adding a user-friendly interface to Time Warner’s services. Words like “paradigm-shifting” and “outside the box” were probably used and according to Fortune, “transformative” was most definitely used. The deal went down in history, but for all the wrong reasons. To this day it’s spoken about in the same tone most people reserve for particularly bad divorces, bouts of venereal disease or, well, the AOL-Time Warner merger.
The silver lining: it demonstrates that no matter how bad a deal this large is, someone makes money. But I’m 99.999999 percent sure it wasn’t you. (Hello, Steve Case!)
AOL’s media subsidiaries are saying the purchase won’t affect their coverage of Verizon, net neutrality or anything else that might be a conflict of interest. However, Verizon’s history with SugarString, a short-lived (as in a month) tech site that became famous — or infamous — for what it didn’t cover: net neutrality and domestic spying on the part of the NSA.
The deal is scheduled to close in the summer. That assumes the feds ok the deal, though large mergers seem to be drawing more scrutiny lately (see: AOL’s former bedmate, Time Warner Cable and Comcast).
As expected, the corporate talking heads are holding hands, singing Kumbayah and putting out press releases with statements like: “[The] acquisition further drives its LTE wireless video and OTT (over-the-top video) strategy. The agreement will also support and connect to Verizon’s IoT (Internet of Things) platforms, creating a growth platform from wireless to IoT for consumers and businesses.”
It’s like Madlibs with catchphrases. You know, like 2000.
Will all your media base are belong to Verizon? Will AOL be cool again?
Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure: a decade and a half after the last time AOL tried this, the business revolution, or fiscal debacle, will be streamed, not televised.