AOL chief: Online content can be 'much better'

Online video to be a key part of AOL development

NEW YORK -- Online content can be "much better" and will be the focus of the next development stage of the Internet, AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong said here Friday.

"That's why we are making such a big bet there," he said during a keynote appearance at the annual Media and Money conference, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter parent The Nielsen Co. and Dow Jones.

He argued that the first wave of Internet development focused on access, then platforms -- from Facebook to iTunes -- were in focus. But the next step will be content, which hasn't seen as much innovation by online firms, he argued.

Online video will be a key part of that, according to Armstrong. Already, AOL is doing six times as much video as a few months ago, he said.

"We're excited about video," the AOL boss told the conference. "You're going to see us do much more in the future."

That includes original video content. Projects with the likes of Warren Buffett and Martha Stewart have already been announced here, with more to come.

The growth of social media, such as AOL's Bebo, but also outside firms such as Twitter and others, plays a key role in AOL's content strategy as well. "We see social as a great way to distribute content" and share it, Armstrong said.

Asked about advertising sales strategies around content, he said the company likes bundling audience segments together across various Web sites. "Building niche properties is valuable," he explained.

The AOL CEO didn't comment in detail on reports of possible hundreds of additional layoffs at the firm, but said it is in the process of reengineering the organization based on its strategies and staff ideas right now. The process should be completed in the coming weeks.

Earlier this week, AOL laid off about 100 employees, reducing its staff to about 6,900. But a regulatory filing also mentioned restructuring charges of up to $200 million to be taken by mid-2010 for further streamlining. Media reports said hundreds could be cut, with some citing as many as 1,000 possible staff reductions.

"I hope to get the layoffs out of the way, but I'm excited about the future," Armstrong said Friday, arguing morale at AOL is better than when he took over. "The energy is back."

AOL is set to be separated from Time Warner and become an independent company again next month.