A few pieces of bad news this week create the sense of turmoil inside the company, but reports of AOL's death have been greatly exaggerated.
AOL just can't seem to catch a break this week, but a few pieces of bad news doesn't presage the demise of the Internet media giant.
First it lost CTO Alex Gounares, who wanted to move back to Seattle. Then it lost tech head Tim Dierks and sales exec Tim Castelli. And to top it all off, news leaked out that the struggling media giant is about to hand out pink slips in its West Coast office.
About the only piece of good news was the departure of TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld. The loss of the leader of one of AOL's high-profile assets may not seem like good news on the surface, but TechCrunch desperately needed a reboot. Eric Eldon, the new top dog at TechCrunch, has a lot of internal support and I suspect will help the blog rebound from its traffic lows.
The turmoil and turnover don't look good to outsiders, though. That's why it shouldn't surprise anybody that some AOL investors are pushing hard for a board shake-up.
AOL is far from dead, though. The company's stock price has been rising for the last three months, and it beat Wall Street expectations last quarter (revenue and profit were down from Q1 2010, though).
Traffic is up at The Huffington Post, the heart and soul of the AOL media empire. U.S. traffic has grown by 46 percent in the last year, according to ComScore--it rose from 27.6 million unique U.S. visitors in January 2011 to 40.3 million in January 2012. Engadget and the Patch Network (AOL's hyper-local blog network) are holding steady, while year-over-year traffic to AOL's home page and TechCrunch are down 17 percent and 31 percent respectively.
So yes, AOL is struggling, especially when it comes to retaining its top talent. It takes a long time to build a content-based business, though--top search rankings and loyal audiences don't simply appear overnight.
It will be a long time until we know for certain whether AOL is marching towards recovery, stagnation, or oblivion. Predictions of the inevitable demise of AOL are simply premature at this point.