AOL trying to find 'white spaces' on the Internet

CEO Tim Armstrong continues his road show, aiming to make the case that the Internet pioneer still has a strong future.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong (right) speaks with Fortune's David Kirkpatrick at the Brainstorm: Tech conference on Thursday. Ina Fried/CNET

PASADENA, Calif.--The Tim Armstrong road show continued on Thursday, with the AOL chief executive dropping by the Fortune Brainstorm: Tech conference.

Armstrong made many of the same arguments he has been making--namely that the Internet is still in its infancy and that AOL represents one of the biggest opportunities and challenges in the Internet arena.

The former Google executive laid out the areas where AOL plans to focus--display advertising, content, messaging and local services, including the once-leading one--MapQuest. In that last area Armstrong acknowledged that the company has fallen behind.

"We probably missed a generation of technology which we are working on right now," he said.

Armstrong said that the company doesn't have to dominate these areas to be successful, but it does need to be one of the leaders. In addition to existing areas, Armstrong said there are significant "white spaces" on the Internet where AOL can build a business.

However, Armstrong was short on specifics on how the company will improve its existing businesses or which new areas it will tackle.

The company is looking at buying some businesses and selling others of its units. However, Armstrong said it isn't the same list of acquisition targets or divestitures that the company was planning when he arrived.

Armstrong said that some of the units that the company planned to get rid of are actually some of the areas he says have become key to its new strategy. He also said that on his first day there was a "$400 million check" that the company wanted him to sign; Armstrong said he didn't make that purchase.

The audience was asked to vote whether AOL would slowly run out of juice, stay profitable but not a leader, or return to health as a major Internet player. Nearly half of respondents chose "run out of juice" before Armstrong's talk and only about 30 percent said so after the panel wrapped up.

"So you are a good presenter," said moderator and Fortune writer David Kirkpatrick.

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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