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Aol re-invents itself

July 13, 2005

Prior to Live 8, AOL was known by many in the world of marketing as the Internet innovator that lost its way. AOL was the company that gave out billions of discs to help many of us get on the web for the first time. Now, it’s starting to re-invent itself and make its brand relevant.

The catalyst for the re-birth was Live 8, when some smart work behind the scenes secured AOL, the media victory in the event.

AOL drove people through the text-messaging feature to their compelling content. It was the perfect stage for the brand’s unplanned re-launch.

Although TV networks achieved good audiences with Live 8, they weren’t spectacular. This time it was the web that led the way and AOL emerged as the winner.

How the audience built on AOL during the course of the day was pretty staggering:

8am- Berlin 35,000 viewers

9am- London opens- 65,000 viewers

Noon- London- U2 and McCartney- 100,000 viewers

Later that day- 175,000 viewers

By the end of the day, 5 million people has been to AOL

Following this success AOL is clearly keen to capitalize. Yesterday, they announced a
partnership with XM to distribute live concerts across radio and the internet. The new venture, Network Live will package up to 40 concerts during the course of the year. This is just another part of AOL’s plan to play a role in the new internet; they launched a video search engine in June.

These moves are significant for AOL as it places the brand back to the point of relevance. Just as it innovated first time around to get us onto the web, it is well placed to do the same again. Just as broadband growth explodes, we are seeing the Internet emerge as a true entertainment platform. Although this idea has been AOL’s sights for some time, it took a huge global event to realize it and make it tangible for consumers.

However, the world isn’t the same as when AOL first came to prominance, there are new rules and many new players. AOL used to be a little like Sony, it wanted to protect its property, but in December 2004, AOL gave up its “walled garden” and switched to an ad supported model.

Now, several months later, AOL seems to be back with every intention of becoming a major player once more, but, it’s a very different AOL. AOL.com will soon be the “free” access point for all, with no monthly subscription required to get the exclusive content.

Soon the only thing that will keep people from giving up their subs, will be their AOL email address.

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