Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

AOL keeps the spirit of P.T. Barnum alive

American Online (AOL) has done a remarkable job of keeping P.T. Barnum's adage that "there is a sucker born every minute" alive and well in these modern times.

In the early to mid 1990s, it was AOL that came up with the brilliant stragegy of not only pricing its Internet service much higher than all competitors but also providing a much more unwanted email, telephone, and web-based advertising to those premium-paying customers than their competitors (who charged less for service) did. Adding insult to injury, AOL also charged premium rates to advertisers who were anxious to reach the gullible AOL subscriber base.

The con caused AOL's stock price to go so high that they were able to purchase Time Warner, a company with real assets. Of course, the legitimate "magic" didn't quite last that long so AOL executives had to phoney up some numbers to make the Time Warner deal pass the sniff test. But not to worry, the deal was done and all of the AOL principles handsomely paid out before Federal investigators figured out the scam

But the AOL customer base has been eroding and AOL has even had to reduce the amount of advertising blasted to the remaining paying customers. So what is the company to do? Apparently, the answer is to further exploit the AOL customer base by making use of the intellectual property contained in instant messages. Is this going to work? Remember P.T. Barnum.


At 9:40 AM, Blogger MP said...

Maybe AOL is finally on the way out. They may have provided a good service initially but now are just bloated and somewhat offensive.

It seems like they were attempting to slip this change in and were perhaps hoping no one would notice.

Do you think there is something they have seen going over AIM that they are interested in or what? They must have some idea as to how they would like to use this stuff.

It's a little creepy but does remind one that nothing in life is free.


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