Ousted AOL CEO Falco: Where’s The Appreciation?

Even before Randy Falco was defenestrated as AOL’s chairman/CEO and replaced by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) exec Tim Armstrong, he was already feeling frustrated as the calls for his ouster the past few months grew. In an interview with Mediapost’s Diane Mermigas prior to the announcement, he defended his management of the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) unit and offered a glimpse at some of the plans he was hoping to implement. Here’s a rundown:

I’m done: Falco says that when he arrived at the end of 2006 — he replaced Jon Miller in the role — AOL was losing “hundreds of millions of dollars. It now makes money. The margin has gone from negative 20 percent to plus 20 percent in two years… No one appreciates how profound a change it is to take a company and completely re-pivot this way, from a subscription business into an ad-supported Web business.” Still, Mediapost, citing Barclays analyst Doug Anmuth, notes that although AOL’s pageviews rose 14 percent in Q4, total ad revs dropped 6 percent and display ads at AOL’s own sites plunged 15.4 percent. More after the jump including Falco’s plans for AOL and the challenges of coming from the traditional media side.

Plans: The former NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) co-COO also discussed trying to get AOL’s programming side to focus more on niche sites and on trying to move towards premium branded display ads and away from remnant. In particular, Falco wanted AOL to work with ad agencies on creating original webisodes like Sophie’s Diary on Bebo.

You can’t go home: One of the main criticisms since Falco came to AOL was that he was an old media hand and didn’t really understand online. Falco’s comments indicated that he wished he had the chance to do it all over again, or at least go back to broadcasting armed with better knowledge of the digital business. But he does not expect to return to NBCU, saying “I don’t know that you can ever go back.”