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AOL launches blogging service

America Online launches a new feature called AOL Journals in an effort to piggyback on the grassroots popularity of Web logs, or "blogs."

America Online on Monday launched a new feature called AOL Journals in an effort to piggyback on the grassroots popularity of Web logs, or "blogs."

The service lets people publish their own daily musings and complement their text with photos and picture albums. Users can also arrange their journals by topics, such as sports, relationships or books.

AOL will offer the new feature as part of its proprietary online service, but users will be able to update their blogs through the AOL Web site, AOL Instant Messenger and their cell phones. AOL by Phone subscribers can also use telephones to record an MP3 file of their voice and insert the file into their journals.

Blogging is a fancy term for keeping a Web diary. Many journalists, artists and other thinkers publish their own blogs on the Web and have attracted loyal readers. Blogging has also become a way for people to express themselves online by posting their musings in a public forum.

The launch of AOL Journals is part of an ongoing revamping of AOL's proprietary online service. Last month, AOL unveiled the latest version of its service, called AOL 9.0 Optimized, which places a heavy emphasis on appealing to broadband users through multimedia features and enhanced security.

AOL's campaign to improve its service comes at a critical juncture. AOL is suffering from subscriber defections to broadband or cheaper dial-up services, and it is continuing to watch its online advertising and commerce revenues plummet. Subscriber declines are particularly troublesome, because AOL's subscription business was considered its bedrock throughout turbulent times for online advertising.

Meanwhile, federal regulators including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating parent company AOL Time Warner to determine whether executives improperly accounted for revenues at AOL.