Just What Is AOL After All the Exits, Additions?

Portal Is Grappling With Creating a Master Network to Put the Pieces Together

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AOL hasn't let an identity crisis get in the way of its acquisition spree.

The portal dropped $850 million last week to acquire social network Bebo, which has a strong European presence but widely lags behind Facebook and MySpace in the U.S. AOL has discussed growing portal traffic and has consolidated its ad-network buying spree -- Tacoda, Quigo and Third Screen Media -- with a 2004 Advertising.com purchase under a division called Platform A.
AOL Chairman-CEO Randy Falco
AOL Chairman-CEO Randy Falco

With a steady wave of management departures, Platform A has had anything but a smooth ride since its launch. Those who've left recently include AOL Exec VP and Tacoda founder Dave Morgan; Kathy Kayse, the former People magazine publisher who led branded ad sales for AOL; and former Tacoda CEO Curt Viebranz.

The plan for Platform A is to integrate all the technologies the companies bring to the table -- Quigo's contextual targeting, Tacoda's behavioral targeting and Advertising.com's performance targeting -- to create a master network that can do it all. Additionally, it will move AOL inventory into the network.

But there's still that trouble of what AOL is -- to both buyers and consumers. The company has shed its subscription model, and Time Warner is preparing to sell the languishing dial-up business. As AOL expands outside of, well, America, is AOL even the right name for it anymore?

AOL Chairman-CEO Randy Falco said he believes the Platform A integration will prove its worth to marketers. "What we're selling is a very engaged consumer, and we're putting together rich-media experiences and integrated-marketing experiences for our clients."
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