The full article is interesting for AOL watchers everywhere, but I wanted to highlight the section at the end of the article on the company's efforts to convert it's AIM instant messaging (IM) franchise into a MySpace (NWS) like platform:
"...much is riding on AIM Pages, which will be announced in beta form in May. The idea is to build a MySpace-like network around the so-called buddy lists of people who use AOL's instant-messaging product, known as AIM.
The buddy list will work in the same way that the "friends" section of other social-networking sites do, but it will have the added advantage of letting people know when their friends are online, whether they have added any new information to their personal pages — blog entries or photographs, for example — and is integrated into AOL's popular chat feature.
What's more, AOL has a sales force that is already doing more than $1.5 billion a year in business, an advantage that it believes will lead AIM Pages to have a credible advertising business sooner than its rivals..."
"AIM Pages is especially crucial because AIM is the closest thing that AOL has to what used to be called a killer app; it enjoys a wide margin in the United States over its rivals from Yahoo and MSN in both the number of users and the time spent instant-messaging.
The problem is, AIM's numbers have been sliding of late, in direct correlation to the growing amount of time that young people in particular are spending on social-networking sites like MySpace.
According to figures provided by comScore Media Metrix, the audience using AIM through the AOL subscriber service declined by 28 percent from March 2005 to March 2006, to 16.3 million.
That is a result of simple but sobering math: AOL lost 2.7 million subscribers last year, and with each of them went multiple AIM identities. Meanwhile, the number of users of AIM via the Internet — separate from the subscriber service — was down 4 percent, to 28.2 million.
During the same period, according to comScore, the overall audience of instant-messenger users declined by 4 percent, to 72.8 million. ComScore's ratings competitor, Nielsen/NetRatings, says the unique audience of AOL Instant Messenger declined by 13 percent in March from a year earlier. For AOL, these are troubling figures."
It's interesting that the company does not seem to be making similar efforts with it's other IM franchise, ICQ, which has a higher percent of users in overseas markets.
Maybe the idea is to focus on one IM asset at a time for this this MySpace type makeover.
Some AOL watchers may note the irony in the fact that the company that pioneered the mainstream adoption and popularity of instant messaging communities globally, seems now to be playing catch-up to new start-ups that are taking online communities in a new direction.
However, for this AOL watcher and Time Warner shareholder, it's better late than never.