And as this Washington Post story notes, AOL's strategy is based not on connection – but on content.
[AOL] has created or bought some of the most popular sites on the Web: Engadget.com, for gadget geeks; PoliticsDaily.com, for politicos; FanHouse.com, for sports nuts; DailyFinance.com, for business news; and even MMAFighting.com, for fans of the world of professional fistfights. The AOL brand barely appears on any of these sites, an approach AOL executives confidently compare to Disney's unbranded ownership of ABC, ESPN and Miramax. The idea is to let each of the smaller, targeted brands create its own relationship with consumers.
That last paragraph is important.
In other words, AOL is using its vast power as a destination (it's still one of the Web's top ten destinations) to nurture worthy content destinations and cross-pollinate between them. They are not trying to promote the mother brand – they're trying to enrich the mother brand's assets.
And what to do about competing for ad dollars in an endless ocean of online avails?
The business of online advertising is a tough one, as newspaper owners have learned in the past decade. Margins are thinner online than in print, where scarcity of ad space allowed for much higher rates. The Internet offers infinite space and endless content, driving down ad rates. AOL thinks it has a solution. Rather than just creating news sites that cover the story of the day, it is using Internet usage data to create content on subjects people are searching for. If news about the latest "American Idol" castoff is pulling in lots of users, AOL's sites will create more content about it. The more pages AOL creates, the more pages users see, and the more ads it can sell.
Matching content to the interests of audiences.
Sounds like a good idea to me.
Maybe broadcasters should focus less on using their digital assets to pimp their over-the-air brands and focus more on delivering content of interest and value to audiences that are already online searching for that content.