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By Goofyhoofy
September 22, 2003

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Also, as I mentioned, renaming our company will strengthen the identity of the AOL brand among consumers. When consumers hear or see "AOL," Jon Miller and his team want them to focus on the terrific initiatives, such as AOL 9.0 Optimized, that America Online is rolling out.

This is triple spin, worthy of the best (or worst) of the current generation of talk shows, depending on your point of view.

Removing the "AOL" from the company name will do nothing to "strengthen the identity of the AOL brand among consumers."

Nobody is canceling AOL because the New York Times is writing some crappy articles in the business section. No advertisers are buying Google instead of AOL.com because they fear the wrath of people who see their ad on one web page instead of another.

It is the decline of the AOL brand, which they think is dragging down the corporate name, not vice versa. With AOL subscribers defecting for broadband, the service has been - and will continue to decline, at least in total numbers. That presages a decline in revenues and profits, which lards more bad news under the "AOL" name, which affects NOT the consumer, but the company and therefore (one presumes) the stock.

Changing the stock ticker from "AOL" to "TWX" helps focus on the terrific initiatives of the AOL service? Gimme a break. MSN is flailing too, but nobody looks at it because it's irrelevant to the larger company.

By the way, I think it's the right thing to do, and I probably would have sent out the press release and memo saying about the same thing, because it's difficult to announce "Hey, the service is in decline, and that throws mud on the entire company."

I notice that all the "Firestone" signs have been replaced with "Bridgestone" ones are my local tire centers, too. But I'll bet they didn't put out a press release saying, "Well, the Firestone brand is toast."

Anyway, the AOL service will still produce a mighty cash flow, and that will be good. At some point their ad revenues will stabilize and perhaps even start going back up, but perhaps not given a decline in subscriber base. At some point they may even figure out a way to make the other cable companies offer the service in a bundle, or even figure out some compelling enough content to convince people to pay up, as HBO has done.

But that time is not today, and it's time to take the brand in decline off the masthead and bury it amid the dozens of others in the stable of disparate brands, none of which seem to be able to work with one another anyway, and where the individual wins and losses are subsumed under the umbrella of the whole.

Of course this analysis comes from someone who thought the merger would work, so I'm including a grain of salt in this message for your convenience.


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