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Tim Armstrong's AOL beats Wall Street's low expectations

But continuing declines in revenue show just how much of a challenge Armstrong faces as he retools both his sales force and his sales strategy.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong turned in his first earnings report as CEO of the newly independent company this morning. And his numbers don't look anything like the ones he was used to reporting at Google--revenue plummeted across the board.

Then again, Wall Street has minimal expectations for AOL for at least a couple quarters, so Armstrong didn't need to do much to meet them.

After factoring out one-time charges, AOL posted earnings of 71 cents per share on revenues of $801 million. Wall Street expected earnings of either 62 cents or 66 cents per share, depending on who you ask, on revenue of around $766 million.

And while advertising revenue was lousy, it wasn't as bad as Wall Street had expected--it dropped 8 percent, and analysts had assumed it would show a double-digit decline. Subscription revenue, which still drives the company, though, dropped more quickly than analysts assumed, down 28 percent.

Again, recall that these numbers are against miserable comps from a year ago, when advertisers and publishers just sat in the dark with towels over their heads, crying. So the fact that AOL is still declining shows you how much of a challenge Armstrong faces, as he retools both his sales force and his sales strategy.

Here's the revenue breakdown:

AOL Q4 revenue

Here's Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney's ever-helpful "cheat sheet" for interpreting the results, if you're playing along at home.

AOL Q4 cheat sheet