Internet provider moves HQ to grow ad biz

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AOL, trying to shun its image of a slow-moving provider of Internet access, said Monday that it will move its headquarters to New York, the hub of the advertising industry that the Time Warner unit so covets.

AOL has 11,000 employees worldwide, about 4,000 of them in Dulles, Va., where the company has been headquartered since before the TW-AOL merger.

A company spokeswoman said that a headquarters move to New York will cause some top management, including CEO Randy Falco and COO Ron Grant, to spend more time there, but that few others will be affected.

AOL already employs 400 people at its advertising and programming group at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. That group will move to AOL's new headquarters at 770 Broadway, a few miles from TW corporate headquarters at 10 Columbus Circle.

AOL has been aggressively courting advertisers in its attempt to replace diminishing Internet access revenue with money from rapidly growing online advertising, a business that has made Google a more valuable company on Wall Street than TW.

Time Warner shares closed off 2.2% on Monday to $18.24, giving the company a market capitalization of $68 billion compared with Google's $164 billion.

Internet advertising will grow at a 16.1% clip annually to $35.4 billion in the U.S. in 2011, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Access will grow at 7.1% to $43 billion in 2011, though AOL's subscriber base has shrunk from more than 26 million five years ago to less than 11 million today.

The change of venue for AOL headquarters coincides with a new push it calls Platform A, which will combine its Advertising.com network with several recent acquisitions: TACODA, which tracks and targets Internet users according to their online behavior; Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising company; video-advertising company Lightningcast; and global ad-serving company Ad:Tech.

Platform A is designed to sell ads across all AOL sites as well as other Web properties not owned by AOL or TW, offering advertisers one-stop shopping for the Internet.

"With the increasing fragmentation of online audiences, the best way to serve advertisers is to enable them to harness massive advertising networks that reach across the entire Internet," Falco said.

Named president of Platform A was Curtis Viebranz, the former CEO of TACODA. He will report to Grant.

AOL also said Monday that it has extended an agreement with Hewlett-Packard to two dozen countries where local-language versions of MyAOL.com will be bundled onto HP computers as their default Internet portal. Previously, the agreement was for the U.S. only.
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