John starts by grilling Jonathan: “are you talking to Microsoft?” [crowd roars]. Jonathan replies that AOL is in transition from proprietary mindset/business model to more open model – like Web 2.0. John tries again: AOL is an important player in platform market, Microsoft wants to create a partnership with AOL.
Jonathan: “we’re the largest swing voter”.
John: “exactly, you hold a lot of power.”
But Jonathan doesn’t say any more about this. So John turns to question of weblogsinc deal. He says weblogs are in the middle of user-generated and professional content. They have a whole spectrum of content and “we need to be a place where all of that coexists.”
John asks what will we see from AOL in a year or two.
Jonathan: weblogs business “we will greatly expand.” more content partnerships, hollywood plays, user-generated content, video content on the web.
John: AOL has a lot of video, tell me about AOL and video.
Jonathan: two main players: Yahoo and AOL. “we’re sitting side by side” but AOL does more than anyone else – and will continue to.
John: how is “the open thing” going?
Jonathan: was one of the hardest parts of the job, to change that [old proprietary] mentality. Get in synch with the market – which propietary walled gardens are not. “We’re past that point.”
John: but you’re not abandoning the isp business?
Jonathan: not at all, they’re different. […] talks about subscribers and the Web. Do you want to be limited by subscribers, or embrace the world wide web on worldwide basis.
Talks about really big brands on the Web – he would make the argument that only one has been made in last 10 years: Google. AOL is one too, but “the worst thing you can do is limit it to dial-up” etc. Most important thing to be is to be expansive as possible.
John: what about China? (America Online)
Jonathan: We’re today officially changing the name of the company from America Online to AOL. We believe it’s a brand that will go worldwide.
Think worldwide. Looking into China and a couple of other countries – “active exploration” – for Web business.
Word associations from Jonathan:
Google = money
Yahoo = smart
ebay = platform
barry diller = hardest to soundbite. “Barry pays attention.”
newscorp = directed (when rupert decides to do something, he goes and does it)
[stuff about Time Warner and investment]
On why they didn’t buy Jeeves and let Diller get it: “I couldn’t make the math work.” And he doesn’t want to fight a battle on search. However video and “certain verticals” they will.
Qst on weblogsinc: person thinks they bought it for content instead of conversations. what will happen when blogosphere doubles in size and weblogsinc doesn’t look so valuable? Answer was they will figure it out (or something like that).
Summary: I thought Jonathan Miller came across as a very smart and on-the-ball CEO. Sounds like AOL is back in business in Web 2.0, although I’m skeptical of the weblogsinc value to AOL. Why? Because I had high hopes AOL would roll out a more ‘loosely-formed’ network, in which unique user brands could bloom. I think Yahoo will definitely do that, which is why I like Y! more when it comes to user-generated content.