Huffington Post Gets Its First Publisher Amid Broader AOL Changes
In his company's most recent earnings call, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said he wanted to restructure the company in a way that made individual content brands within the AOL portfolio more responsible for their businesses.
Today AOL is making a series of changes that seem designed in part to do that , starting with the appointment of Janet Balis as the Huffington Post Media Group's first publisher. She had been senior VP for sales strategy, marketing and partnerships for AOL Advertising since October.
In her new role, Ms. Balis will focus on new strategies for The Huffington Post's work with marketers. She was previously responsible for strategy at a broader range of AOL properties, although she had devoted much of her time to The Huffington Post. She has been the business executive most front and center, for example, in pitching the coming HuffPost Streaming Network to brands. She also recently spoke with Ad Age about an effort to help brands and their agencies build and maintain their own content sites.
Arianna Huffington's own portfolio at AOL has also been scaled back recently to include just The Huffington Post.
Although AOL's ad sales team will continue to take the lead on selling Huffington Post inventory, the company is also hiring Moritz Loew to lead a team of sales specialists on Huffington Post-specific initiatives. He had been chief agency officer and general manager for sales at MSNBC Digital.
Ms. Balis and Mr. Loew will both report to Ms. Huffington, who suggested the changes gave The Huffington Post more independence. "This is all part of the Huffington Post bringing in our own marketing and communications headed by Lauren [Kapp], who is reporting to me, bringing in our CTO reporting to me, and although we'll still be working with the AOL sales force, we are going to now have our own leadership in the form of Janet and Moritz," Ms. Huffington said.
Ms. Balis previously reported to Ned Brody, who was involved in a third change at AOL.
Mr. Brody's duties are changing as well, as he is effectively returning to his previous role, when he was president of the Advertising.com Group (he is now CEO of that group). He had been chief revenue officer and president of AOL Advertising for less than a year. Mr. Brody said he didn't view the move as a demotion, but rather a necessary change to let him focus on the fast-moving unreserved ad-inventory space.
The group, which includes video businesses Goviral and 5min, ad-format platform Pictela, and the traditional Ad.com ad network, grew 23% year-over-year in the first quarter and has been one of the company's bright spots over the past year. Mr. Brody will continue to report to Tim Armstrong.
"We think there's a lot of legs left in that business," Mr. Brody said, citing the opportunity for international growth, particularly in Japan, and the company's increasing ad technology offerings. The company has recently introduced a demand-side ad platform in beta and will release two other ad-tech products before year's end.
The new role for Mr. Brody also removes a management layer between Mr. Armstrong and Jim Norton, head of sales for AOL owned-and-operated properties including The Huffington Post since December. Mr. Norton, who had reported to Mr. Brody, will now report directly to Mr. Armstrong, who has been expressing concern about ad sales on the company's owned-and-operated sites.
AOL's domestic display advertising in the first quarter fell 1% year-over-year, from $120 million to $119 million, the company said earlier this month. "I was not happy with domestic display," Mr. Armstrong said then.
He reiterated that Tuesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, where he labeled owned-and-operated display the part of the business that needs the most attention right now.