Armstrong: Moving 53 Brands Into 20 Provides Better Focus

AOL’s move to funnel its 53 sites into 20 “super brands” (listed below) is meant to offer a streamlined, more coherent set of content brands for advertisers and consumers, says CEO Tim Armstrong in an interview with paidContent. He also noted that the changes reflected the completion of the integration of AOL’s various sites on to the Huffington Post platform, a move that will make it easier for advertisers to connect across the remaining long list of offerings.

Asked what the most dramatic change is that Armstrong made, he said that it was the seamlessness of the content and advertising platform that was the most important — but it had received the least attention. “A year ago, we still had 20-plus independent systems for the sites and that made it difficult for advertisers to run ads across on them,” he said.

There were also some personnel changes, which were included in Armstrong’s staff memo this morning. As we noted earlier, former Patch CEO and co-founder Jon Brod will be giving up his title as COO of the Huffington Post Media Group (NYSE: AOL) to focus solely on AOL’s local efforts. In addition to making sure the hyperlocal network makes money, Brod’s move back to Patch includes figuring out how to build up Mapquest and align it with the network and other interests.

“When we put [Brod] in the COO role, we needed someone to manage the integration,” Armstrong said. “That didn’t necessarily mean that we had intended that to be temporary, but as the integration was completed between AOL and HuffPo’s content management systems, it become clear that we should take him from COO for all the [HuffPo] sites since it was being has been simplified. Local is the next forefront in AOL’s turnaround, so it was also important to have someone who knows that business as well as Jon handle that job.”

In terms of simplifying the content roles, with Brod on local, the media group will be run by five general managers who will report to Armstrong. That in effect makes Armstrong the business lead for those areas. “This structure just codifies my existing role; it’s not a huge change,” Armstrong said. “I already spend a lot of time on the strategies. We’ve been detailed about the brands work.”

Over the past year, AOL has had a number of major announcements around its content business, including outsourcing its popular sports blog Fanhouse to The Sporting News. That has left many observers feeling that AOL is constantly changing its plan.

Armstrong strongly feels that has been a mischaracterization. “Streamlining the content systems and ad systems, building up the sites as ‘power brands’ — it’s all a continuation of the strategy we’ve laid out,” he said. “As AOL turns around, our visibility becomes more and more clear, especially when it comes to focusing on areas where we can grow traffic. But this is it for now. There are no other drastic changes in place. That said, we will continue to tweak the operation and we may have to make additional changes down the road. You’re never completely finished. But this marks the end of a major phase with Huffington Post and our content sites.”

53 Sites Folded Into 20 Super Brands:
Aol Healthy Living
Aol Industry: Aol Defense; Aol Energy
Aol Money & Finance: Aol Jobs; Aol Real Estate; Daily Finance; Wallet Pop
Aol Music: The Boombox; Noise Creep; Sessions; Shoutcast; Spinner; The Boot; WINAMP
Aol Search
Aol Travel
Aol Video
Aol Autos
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