AOL aims to be an online brand-builder, CEO Armstrong says

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Source: AOL

Google is the king of online search, AOL chief Tim Armstrong said Wednesday, while Facebook is the undisputed champion of social media.

And AOL – which, of course, is owned by Verizon – hopes to establish itself alongside those two behemoths as the top brand-building company of the digital era.

The nation’s largest mobile network operator hasn’t been shy about its ambitions to use mobile as a springboard to create a digital media empire. It recently agreed to spend $4.83 billion to buy Yahoo’s core online assets, and a year ago it picked up AOL in a $4.4 billion deal that included assets such as TechCrunch, The Huffington Post and Engadget.

Meanwhile, the carrier has launched the OTT video initiative Go90, among other efforts. And it owns Millennial Media, a mobile advertising firm it bought last year for $250 million.

The goal isn’t to compete directly with either Google or Facebook, Armstrong explained Wednesday at an investor conference. It’s to fill a gap that Verizon sees in the marketplace, and to do it with assets it believes were undervalued – even if the carrier had to spend billions to get them.

“I think we will be the brand company that essentially builds brands, builds consumer brands, but also on the B2B side helps other people build their brands. And the gap in the marketplace are the following two places: On the consumer side, if you’re having consumers basically connected 24/7, where they’re ingesting more media than they’ve ever ingested overall and that pie is growing. Most of the companies that are going to struggle to go from analog to digital to provide the content brands to people. And so we believe there’s a gap for us to provide consumer content brands out in the world, both on our platforms and other people’s platforms -- Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube… we partner with all those people today.

“And then the second gap is on the monetization,” Armstrong continued. “If you are in the advertising business and you follow what Google and what Facebook do, they both have tremendous – first of all, both of those companies are executing very well and they are very, very, very great competitors overall. And I think it’s something we aspire to get to the same level of output that they are and they’re doing a great job.”

Verizon aims to create “superhighways of revenue” across its own consumer brands and its partners’ brands, Armstrong said. He cited O2, a new video player that works across its partner network and can target content and ads across devices. AOL will continue to build tools that enable advertisers to reach Verizon users and much broader audiences worldwide through a single input.

“We have a right to win with our brands with Verizon, and the Verizon network and data, and we already have progress in those areas,” Armstrong said. Whether the carrier can execute on that vision is the looming question.

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

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