I wrote in part 1 that AOL would win because:
3) We have scale (of audience, infrastructure, and marketing)
2) We still have a highly engaged relationship with known customers
1) We have a well known, wide reaching brand
Continuing my All-Hands speech from last year:
Greatness is forged in the fire of great opportunity, and that's what the above add up to me: great opportunity.
That's why we can win. However, its not all motherhood and apple pies. We have some challenges.
And why AOL won't win...
What is the mission of AOL? Who ARE we? In a world where AOL inarguably helped get people connected and, more or less, saw the Company's original mission fulfilled and then ursurped - what does AOL stand for? "Revenue transformation", "More customers", and "OIBIDA targets" are not exactly rousing missions... those are vaguely Dilbertesque business goals.
Directly related to the previous point, but, when AOL does things, even good things, do people care anymore? Not nearly enough, I'd say - there's a trust in our future AOL has to rebuild: with users, the press, investors, and even ourselves. When people talk about Internet companies, AOL often don't even make the list.
1) Brand rejectors
On this point, most people think I mean AOL's brand perception in the market at large. Yeah, that's a problem, but as the old adage goes: there's no such thing as bad publicity. No, I'm talking about something far more insidious: there are too many people who hate AOL who work at AOL. It disappoints me to hear employees talk about "non-members" as our future (the term, not the concept, bothers me because of what it implies about our self esteem). If people are in our namespace, if they use our software, we should be inclusive in our view of them as "members" of our services. There is a deep condescension at work there. And it disappoints me to see the rejection of terms like "AOL Experience" - it ought to be something we work to be proud of, dammit, not something we want to leave behind. We have too many brand rejectors who work here, and you have to believe to succeed.
In my view, our BIGGEST problem is that because there is often this subtle self-loathing in our culture, we're too busy, as a company, copying where we should be leading. If we're not chasing a press relese, or the latest flash-in-the-pan "disruptive technology"(remember [EDITED FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION] or [EDITED FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION], anybody?), we're busy copying (read: being constrained by) our past.
We CAN compete, but we have to recognize that there is no magic; there are no silver bullets. It takes vision, commitment, and hard work.
Most importantly, AOL is best when we're defining the rules, not conforming to them.
And, like dignity, this self-definition comes from the inside out - as Eleanor Roosevelt said so well, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent".