David Eun, my boss’s (Heather) boss since the acquisition, will shortly be leaving AOL. As President of AOL Media and Studios he oversaw the AOL homepage as well as all of the content brands and sites.
It’s clear that the Huffington Post acquisition was the catalyst for the change, and it’s something he talks about at length in the email below. Which, as usual, TechCrunch staff didn’t get (they think we’ll just post these, which we probably wouldn’t if they trusted us not to. Yes I get how confusing that is).
We liked to think of Eun as the “pointy haired boss” at corporate and started in on him from day one after the acquisition when he scheduled a 3.5 hour all hands meeting at TechCrunch – our first all hands meeting ever.
But as much as I made fun of David, I have huge respect for him. One thing he didn’t do was mess with TechCrunch. He never told us what to write, or not write, or in any way interfered with our editorial process. That’s all I really asked for when we were acquired, and he kept his promise.
Anyway, I wonder who we report to now? There must be press release or staff email around here somewhere.
I wanted to reach out to you personally about my decision to leave the company. I came to AOL last year to be the leader of the media organization. With the historic acquisition of The Huffington Post, my role and responsibilities as President, AOL Media are changing. Tim and I have discussed at length how I might continue within the new organizational structure, but ultimately there isn’t a role that matches what I am seeking to do.
I believe this acquisition is great for AOL, and I’ve been happy to count Arianna as a friend for a number of years. This deal would never have happened without all of your hard work and accomplishments this past year. From our Homepage relaunch to massive video growth to significant increases in external traffic, you have been at the forefront of digital media- and this is only the beginning.
I am extremely proud of all that you have accomplished this year. Recent days have given me an opportunity to reflect on just how far we’ve come, and the progress is striking:
We started with a plan to win:
Within my first month, we implemented a high-level strategy that has remained our north star: High-quality Content at Scale
We created a roadmap showing how to equip our talented editors and writers (high quality) with the best practices, technology, tools and insights possible (scale)
We realized the need to focus and have done so aggressively, from managing 300 disparate URLs to today’s laser-focused efforts to prioritize 13 key Towns
We executed faster than ever:
We completed 11 Summer Sprints and Dashes against very aggressive timelines
We conducted 7am “Swarm reviews” of 33 sites and identified over 2,800 Product and Editorial bugs, 95% of which were fixed within weeks
Two core elements of our strategy, AOL.com and AOL Video, were re-launched in a matter of months. 22 other sites and sub-sites have been re-launched with 8 more in the Dev queue currently.
We rolled-out Project Devil with Sales and Eng colleagues in the Fall and are on our way of rolling it across every Town
We grew to over 40 mobile apps, working closely with our Mobile applications group, including the recent addition of AOL.com and Engadget for iPad at CES.
We doubled-down on our strengths and talent:
We successfully appointed or hired new leaders for the Platform, Entertainment, Homepage, News, Video, Programming, Health, SEO, and Marketing groups
We added TechCrunch into our AOL Technology group (Engadget, Switched, TUAW), making AOL the hands-down leader in Technology news and content
All of the top leaders of companies we acquired have been retained and/or have major roles within AOL Media (David Mason, Ran Harnevo, Tal Simantov, Heather Harde and Mike Arrington)
We demonstrated a commitment to high quality content by forming an Editorial Advisory Council comprised of some of the best journalists in the industry who developed and documented “AOL Editorial Standards” for the first time
We retained top performers across the entire organization — you, in the face of all the demands of our “start around”
We saw incredible RESULTS in key areas of focus:
External Entries: In the 9 months before February 2010, external entries to AOL Content sites declined 26%. Since February 2010, they have grown 23%. This means that we are executing against our key goal becoming less dependent on Homepage/Client traffic to drive the Media business.
Video: Through organic growth (+200% y/y) and the 5min acquisition, we have scaled the Comscore rankings from #11 in September to #5 in January. We now generate more UVs than Facebook, Hulu, Microsoft, Fox, and CBS. Since September 2010, AOL Video UVs have grown 62% and videos viewed grew 49% while the overall video market declined on both metrics.
AOL.com: The new AOL.com launched Nov 1 and all core metrics are up: search revenues are up 36% y/y (vs. -24% the year before), referrals to local are up ~200%, and video views are up ~600%. Engagement has improved, generating over 50mm incremental PVs from Dec to Jan alone, and increasing steadily to over 40min/vistor/month, significantly higher than all of our top competitors: MSN (37min), Yahoo (34min), the entire NYT website (30min)
This is just a small portion of what we have accomplished together because there are simply too many to note and too many people to thank individually here. I believe in the future of AOL in large part because of your incredible talent, professionalism and passion, and I am grateful that we had an opportunity to work together.
As I always say, “Keep going!” and know that I’ll be rooting for you. In the meantime, I’ll be available throughout the integration planning process as we await deal approval and have offered to do whatever I can to insure a smooth transition.
It’s been an honor to work with you.