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Three letters that could spell relief: AOL

The online service relaunched its Web portal and plans to begin an ambitious marketing assault. Is America Online finally ready for a comeback?

Almost exactly two years ago, Time Warner decided to drop AOL from its name in a symbolic move that was apparently intended to distance the company from what was largely viewed as its Internet albatross. Then came word last week that AOL might do some kind of deal with rival MSN, a move that would have been unthinkable in years past, further clouding its future.

Ad dollars

This week, however, Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons seemed surprisingly bullish about AOL's prospects, and the online service on Thursday and plans to begin an ambitious marketing assault.

It is true that advertising dollars continue to migrate steadily to the Internet, and recent merger activity indicates that content companies are back in vogue. So if it can ride the wave of this latest trend, is America Online finally ready for a comeback?

Blog community response:

"Now Dick Parsons is saying that AOL is Time Warner's best hope. That isn't a compliment to AOL. It's an indication of just how screwed up AOL remains--as in, surely, it can only go up from here."

"As AOL continues to morph into a free, ad based portal, they ironically finally get to enjoy the benefit of Time Warner's vast amount of content. And this is exactly the piece that Yahoo and Google lack. Parson's could then boost the value of his entire group by making AOL work within Time Warner. Maybe poor old Mr. Case was not so foolish after all."

"Step number one is to separate out AOL's two businesses: one focused on being an ISP and the other an ad based portal to compete with Yahoo and Google. Step 2 seems to be to improve AOL's portal's search service and maybe replace a partnership with Google with one with MSN and to make AOL more successful internationally. Good luck Mr. Parsons and move fast. Yahoo and Google have one hell of a head start."