AOL in need of family therapy

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"Our enterprise is more than a collection of great brands that are owned under one roof," reads the "About Us" section on Time Warner's website. "Time Warner's businesses strive to gain competitive advantage from opportunities for constructive collaboration."

Too bad they're not collaborating within the same company.

One of Time Inc.'s jewels, Sports Illustrated, is working not with Time Warner sibling AOL but with rival Yahoo as a "featured partner" in a deal that gives the portal access to SI's news, columns and photos on its home page. Jeff Lanctot, VP-general manager of Avenue A/ Razorfish, said that with SI struggling to keep up with strong competitors such as CBS Sportsline, Fox Sports and ESPN, "it's not a surprise that they'd turn to one of the big portals for a shot in the arm." The surprise is which portal it turned to.

Keeping the business within the family would have benefited both parties, since's 6.9 million visitors in June beat AOL Sports' 6.2 million unique visits that month. Yet SI was rebuffed by the running man.

So listen to some constructive criticism, Time Warner: At a time when competition has never been fiercer among the portals for access to an involved community and quality content-which Time Inc.'s titles have in abundance-there's no excuse for AOL not taking solid advantage of its 147-odd sibling print properties.

Could it possibly be ashamed of being tied to a print-oriented company? If so, it's time for AOL to wake up and smell the potential of its siblings and what they can offer to its 18.6 million U.S. members.

Shared resources, after all, was the basic underpinning of the AOL/Time Warner merger in 2000. Marketing history books may conclude that the deal's architects, Gerry Levin and Steve Case, were ahead of their time. But some six years later, one side seems stuck on sibling rivalry. It's high time to quash that and salvage something from the relationship. If not, then AOL, at least, stands to lose out.
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