Carl Hutzler's recent post got me thinking. I agree strongly with the contents of his message, though I think it also requires burning the candle from multiple ends.
Below are my speech notes from one of my All Hands presentations in the second half of last year (2005) - its a little out of context today, but I still thought it worth sharing.
Why AOL will win...
3) We have scale.
We have scale of audience, infrastructure, and marketing. 110M out of 160M or so Internet users in the US touches an AOL, Inc website (not counting TWX in this). And, our infrastructure is built to scale: no else could have pulled off Live8, for example - even Akamai's edge Network isn't in our capacity league. And its not just technical scale - we're a marketing powerhouse. We cycle [EDITED FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION] out of [EDITED FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION] households in the US through our acquisition channels EVERY YEAR. And that scale is relevant.
2) We have engagement.
More than half the Internet population in the U.S. launches one of our core desktop products alone - other than Windows, Office, and Solitaire (seriously) I don't think anything or anyone comes close to our usage. Our ENGAGED user base dwarfes the total OS X and Linux user bases (combined). People check their mail, instant message, and browse through our content - they are an ENGAGED audience that we can and are going to do much better serving (and therefore, valuing and being valued by) in less constrained, artificial ways. And engagement counts.
1) We have a great brand.
People KNOW AOL. Early on, when I first started at AOL, I had argued we should milk the existing brand and move everything onto another marketing platform (WinAMP was my suggestion - think people would have checked out WinAMP Pictures, for example? Another thought I had was the "@aol" brand, as in "Radio@aol"; mostly I like the double entendre of "IM@aol" :D) - but I was wrong. There is huge, real value in a well known brand. That brand may stand for "Dumbed down Internet" to a lot of people today, but the equity in our brand, which is JUST as relevant today is it ever was, is about democratizing the Internet: taking transformational technologies and re-imagining them such that they are more readily consumptible, by novice and power users alike.
Moving that brand is a HUGE asset for us - and I'm encouraged because though we may not yet have a vision of where we should end up EXACTLY, we do know that its THATAWAY, and we've been moving steadily and strongly in that direction for the last 18 months.
[Continued in Part 2: "Why we won't win"]