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New York Times trashes AOL Brand

I don’t think the New York Times ever publishes anything that isn’t intended to push some agenda. It seems to me every single headline and article has a mission. It’s not just news or information or entertainment, but rather some mission-based effort to make some point or present some perspective. So when I read today’s article trashing the AOL brand, I wondered what’s up between the Times company and AOL? Probably just helping out the Time-Warner folks, I suppose.

It was fun to read nonetheless. I always enjoyed hearing people make fun of AOL because it’s so easy and stress free. AOL just being AOL has been funny for years. No need to stretch the truth or spend any effort explaining the context – AOL “jokes” are just plain funny. But I thought those days were over because I rarely see any mention of AOL at all these days. But the Times sees a need to tarnish:

“it is clear that AOL’s brand faces significant challenges. The general scorn for the company was encapsulated by [sic] by Cosmé McMoon, who wrote ‘AOL = America’s Oldest Luddites.’ It sounds like there are as many people regularly imploring their aging parents to give up using AOL as there are people asking them not to drive in the dark.”

As always, there are people who take something cheap and easy and hope that someday, if they hold on long enough, it will be cool even if only because it is old. Apparently that has now happened with AOL:

“Several people had nostalgic associations with their e-mail addresses, which have been part of their lives for many years. And there were a few folks who seemed to like AOL for a sort of retro-chic.”

Retro-chic? Wow. Most of us know that “nothing expresses professionalism like an AOL email address“, but I bet few realize that is now retro-chic. The Times notes:

“When I get an email from an AOL address, I begin worrying before I open it that the question will be completely clueless,” said a person who works as a webmaster.

The Times attempts to sum up the trash-fest with this observation (emphasis added):

“And even AOL’s fans didn’t use the sort of words that people associate with growing brands like Apple and Google. You didn’t hear about innovation, quality or service. You didn’t even hear about a community, which once was AOL’s strength. Easy to use, another core part of AOL’s success did still echo from the AOL users. Ultimately, a brand is a promise of a consistent experience…Our little experiment in market research shows that AOL’s brand, at least among Bits [sic] readers, is hardly thriving. Even among satisfied users of the company’s services, the name evokes compromises and stasis, a tough position for a technology company.”

Ouch. Funny though, how the New York Times, with it’s hundred+ years of literary history, has so many typos in its published materials. I rarely have to write [sic] when I blog but I needed it twice for this little piece of trash… umm… I mean trashing, as in piece of AOL trashing. Well, you know what I mean.


Since the New York Times has a policy of not linking to the web, I can’t link to their article here. But I can tell you how to find it. Simply go to and search for “New York Times”. When Google gives back a results page, ignore the main listings and look all the way to the right side of the page. You’ll see a few listings in a vertical column along the side edge. Look for the one that has URL “nytimes dot com” and click it. Once you get to that landing page, there is a “search” box in the upper left, below the masthead. Enter the following search term into that box: “so-thats-who-uses-aol” (you can cut and paste from here) The only result should be the actual article I mentioned here. (They’d make their website so much easier to use if they’d just stick to following web standards and link to things, right? Geesh.)


  1. gamermk wrote:

    Hehe… nice, subtle agenda yourself their John.

    Friday, September 12, 2008 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  2. Demerzel wrote:

    I used to say 10 years ago that if you still had AOL back then, you were either 1) an idiot, 2) had no real knowledge of the Internet, or 3) stuck on your parent’s service.

    Would be interesting to see what their demographics are though nowadays.

    Friday, September 12, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Clicked that box, but it was above the search results, not to the right. Apparently they’ve out-competed the SEM competition for New York Times ;).

    But… the ppc-to-cpm arbitrage still was probably profitable to them, as I generated two page views.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  4. J Boyer Morristown NJ wrote:

    I would be slightly interested in what AOL’s demographics are now. As far as the NY times goes, I don’t read it.

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink