Who Cares About TechCrunch, HuffPo is Ruining TV Squad!

OK, it’s a little sad that the Huffington Post’s assault on AOL (or more accurately, AOL’s assault on its own future) got everyone’s collective panties all atangle and led to just about everyone at TechCrunch quitting (Sarah Perez, one of my favorite bloggers, is apparently hanging in there).  But once Mike Arrington split, all the best blogospats were fought elsewhere anyway.

I can handle the demise of TechCrunch.

What really gets in my craw is the systematic dismantling of my one-time favorite television blog- TV Squad.

At some point, I noticed that AOL, who acquired TV Squad as part of its Weblogs acquisition, had rebranded TV Squad as AOL TV.  That was certainly an omen of bad things to come.  But for a short while, business seemed to go on more or less as usual.

Lately, however, I have noticed an onslaught of Huffpo branding and vibe, as TV Squad-cum-AOL TV is once again rebranded as Huffpost TV.  A name is a name, but the vibe is a buzz kill.  Lots of quantity.  Less quality.

And now this.


An article about the upcoming TV mid-season shows.  Only not an article really- more like an exercise in needless clicking.  You could offer to tell me all about the secret to eternal life and infinite wealth, and I would not click 39 times to read it.  Really.

I don’t want this.  I want the old TV Squad.  I’ll settle for the old AOL TV.  I’m not going to get it.  But I’m not going to read Huffpost TV either.

Anyone have a recommendation for a good TV news and episode review blog?

Crazy Stats: AOL Edition


This post has a soundtrack (trust me, it’s worth it).  If you don’t have Spotify, go get it.

I wondered in passing the other day if you could still log on to AOL.  I was pretty sure you couldn’t.  Now I’m less sure.

Because in a mind-boggling statistic, it turns out that AOL still has 3.5 million dial-up subscribers.  I kid you not when I admit that I didn’t think there were 3.5 million people in A who still use dial-up to go OL.

In another mind-boggling statistic, the average AOL user has been a customer for over 10 years.  This makes one wonder how many of those people actually use AOL any longer.  I paid for AOL long after I quit using it, because it was an automatic charge on a credit card, and I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Being the inquisitive cat that I am, I did some intensive Google work and found that, yes, AOL is still hawking its dial-up service.


There are a few questionable dishes on the premium menu, but if you have to have dial-up, $10.00 a month for unlimited access is pretty good.

Or you could, you know, move.  Or camp out at Starbucks.

And one more thing: AOL actually gained 200,000 new dial-up subscribers last quarter.

Maybe we can get CompuServe back while we’re at it.  It has a great Sports Simulations forum back in the day.

AOL Radio is Good

I hadn’t logged onto AOL in about 1000 years, but now that I’ve been sitting by my computer for about 60 straight hours waiting for Mike to answer my question, I’m pretty much down to the dregs of my internet destinations.

aolradioSo, I fired up AOL tonight while I waited for Mike to get finished drawing impossible sledding courses for Dave Winer (that is a cool game, by the way- especially when you realize that guy really is Dave).

I wandered over to AOL Radio and rooted around a bit.  AOL has some XM channels, which is redundant for me- since my car, my computer and my DirecTV already have it (I wish I could get Sirius free somewhere so I could listen to Channel 14- Classic Vinyl).

But I was surprised to find some stations on AOL Radio that I really liked.  Under the Rock channels there is a great psychedelic rock channel (Spirit’s New Dope in Town is playing right now), a southern rock channel, one with only rock covers, a Rolling Stones channel, and a one-hit wonders channel that is hit and miss, but worth a listen.

Under the Alternative channels there a pretty good 80s alternative channel.

Under Country, there is a good alternative country channel and an outlaw country channel that I liked.

I heard a few ads, but they seemed short and well spaced.

I don’t know if I’ll become a regular listener or not, but I might.  AOL Radio is definitely something to like about AOL at a time when AOL probably needs a little love.

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Lee Gomes on AOL and Sex on the Net

When I was a kid, once in a while when you picked up the phone to make a call, you would hear two other people talking.  Not your mom or dad, but two other people in other houses somewhere in town.  It wasn’t a shared line and it wasn’t on top of a pole like in Hooterville- it just happened sometimes.  Of course anyone who picked up that line should have hung up immediately, but when you’re a kid in a small town there’s only one choice.  After we got bored with listening, we’d make farting sounds and then mumble “excuse me.” It sounds juvenile, only because it was.  But it was also beyond hilarious.

AOL has given the world a chance to engage in an internet version of the same thing by dumping some not entirely anonymous AOL web search data onto the internet.  This data has been the subject of more analysis than Andrea Yates and there have been some interesting patterns uncovered.

Lee has an interesting article about these patterns.  He put the AOL data set into a database and did a little research.

Interestingly, the most commonly used word in the searches was “free.”  The second was “new.”  As a musician, I found it very interesting that “lyrics” was number three.  Free Advice: install a pop-up blocker and an anti-spyware application before you go looking for the lyrics to your favorite song.

Sex, surprisingly, was only number sixteen.  But that’s a little misleading, since that founding father of the web, porn, was the third most popular internet activity.  Again, get that anti-spyware program installed.  It may even be higher since my friends tell me that a lot of porn is distributed via newsgroups, which may not have been picked up by the AOL search data.

Lee notes that in the written word (books, etc.) sex is only around the 2500th most used word.  So how does sex jump 2484 spaces in the journey from book to web? I think it’s because web searches are more like written thought than the written word and I guarantee you sex is a lot higher than 2500 on the list of what people think about, particularly during their leisure time- when they are more likely to be surfing the net.

The other interesting, and often troubling, aspect to this data are the stories that can be gleaned from searches made from the same AOL account.

If you’re interested, you can search the database here.

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AOL Retention Policy Uncovered

As I predicted the other day when the Vincent Ferrari (not to be confused with Vincent Vega) story was all over the blogosphere, the zealous AOL rep who really, really, really didn’t want Vincent to cancel his AOL subscription was simply doing what AOL’s retention manual required.

Some juicy excerpts from Consumerist, the site that unearthed AOL’s retention manual (see the Consumerist post for more excerpts and discussion):

“Allow your callers to talk comfortably about their concerns…watch their concerns and resistance drop.”

“The reason that many Members are going to high speed is, because the actual internet connection is much more stable….we now have the perfect solution…a free modem.”

“Consumers believe everything is a commodity, i.e. where can I buy the service for the least cost. My objective as a salesperson is to prove otherwise.

The retention policy talks about “redirecting the Member if necessary” by restatement and questions.

There’s nothing particularly unusual about AOL’s retention policy, but it does show that this was more than simply the work of a rogue customer rep.


AOL & the Myth of Infinite Advertising


I mentioned the other day that I thought AOL’s decision to drop its subscription fees in exchange for the faint hope of more and more advertising dollars was a bad idea- and wondered why so many people have bought into the myth of infinite advertising.

Henry Blodget explains exactly why it is an act of desperation that is doomed to fail.

If you want a primer on the myth of infinite advertising, read Henry’s post.

Welcome to the Hotel AOL

aol-thumb-158x131-54926.jpgYou can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

After waiting on hold for 15 minutes to talk to a live person so he could cancel his account, an AOL account holder was basically told no by a now unemployed customer service rep. There is a video available on the page linked above that contains a recording of this memorable conversation.

What I would like to see is a copy of the script/instructions that AOL gives its customer service reps to use when someone calls to cancel their account. Granted, this guy went a little overboard, but I suspect the reps were told to try to dissuade people from leaving.

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Synergy Spinergy

Henry Blodgett reports that there is an article in the Walled Street Times (which I can’t read because I’m not going to pay for it) about Time Warner and it’s out of favor stepchild, AOL. It seems that Time Warner has decided that all of that synergy that was going to be realized upon the marriage of Time Warner and AOL isn’t going to come to pass after all.

In fact, Time Warner’s president calls the synergy concept “bullshit.” That’s pretty much how I feel whenever I hear one of those fancy words that mean let’s do this even though there’s no demonstrable benefit to be gained.

Henry sums up this ill-fated deal beautifully:

“Perhaps synergy is, in fact, bullshit–perhaps the merger was doomed from the moment it popped into Steve Case and Jerry Levin’s bubble-addled heads.”

AOL is like the oldies concert circuit- there’s my former hero up there on stage, but man he looks old and I can’t believe he’s come to this.

Blind and Desperate

Am I the only one who thinks all of these “me too” services being thrown up by AOL lately are tokens of desperation and a lack of vision?

TechCrunch reports that AOL is about to release a “YouTube clone.” This is on the heels of AOL’s recent launch of a MySpace competitor.

It looks to me like AOL is thrashing around in search of something to grab hold of as the walls around its closed system crumble and fall.

I don’t know if AOL can save itself or not, but I don’t think trying to become a Web 2.0 company is the most promising way to try.