AOL’s Independence Brings Focus on Content and Advertising

Tim Armstrong and AOL employees rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange this morning, to signal the beginning of trading – including AOL stock as an independent company.

Wall Street responded by dropping their shares by a 36 cents.

That’s to be expected when the future of the company is so uncertain. But they’re doing their best to paint a bright picture of what’s to come:

“We have a clear strategy, a focused mission and a firm commitment to delivering value to our shareholders, consumers and partners,” said Armstrong.

Their main focus is content and advertising. AOL owns 80 niche content sites. 20 of them are ranked in the top 5 of their category in comScore’s Media Matrix.

They’re looking to local to help drive their content business. Christopher Heine went in-depth on the local focus over at our sister site, ClickZ. AOL is tackling the difficult problem of providing fresh local content, something that’s been a challenge for the space.

Their hyper-local platform is called Patch, and it’s expected to reach 30 US cities by year’s end. In 2010, they’ll launch hundreds more.

AOL is already a player in the web advertising biz., which AOL acquired in 2004, reaches 9 out of 10 consumers online. They’ll need to stay vigilant as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! pursue AOL/’s #1 position in the display ad field (as ranked by comScore).

Noticeably missing from AOL’s plans for the future is search. They rely on Google to power their search and there’s no indication that’s changing anytime soon.

Last but not least, AOL’s new homepage went live today. If you refresh it a bunch of times, you’ll see a different image behind the new logo – or you can select one of your choosing from the row of images at the top.

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As you can see, the homepage is 3 columns, something we see at Bing and Yahoo! – and that Google has been experimenting with. It’s clearly a portal and there’s social media integration.

Now, it’s just wait and see. Will a former Google executive take AOL to new glorious heights? Leave your predictions in the comments.

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