Is a website more like a newspaper or a TV channel? Until now, AOL.com has inclined toward the former, programming its homepage more or less like the front page of a newspaper, with links to mostly text stories.
But tomorrow, AOL introduces a new version of AOL.com – still, despite years of decline, one of the most-trafficked individual pages on the internet, with 21.2 million unique visitors in February, according to comScore. This one is less like a newspaper and more like a TV network, with video, not text, in the featured role, and a “schedule” that showcases different types of content depending on the time of day.
“I like to think of what we’re doing as essentially launching a TV network but not constrained by having to set our programming schedule weeks in advance,” says Maureen Sullivan, president of AOL.com and the company’s lifestyle brands.
While AOL is a top video provider, with 4.2 billion videos served in February, according to comScore’s Video Metrix, that strength resides mostly in the video ads served through its Adap.tv platform, which accounted for 3.2 billion of the total.
When it comes to non-ad videos, AOL is No. 3 behind Google (49.1 billion) and Facebook (11.7 billion), with a comfortable lead over Yahoo, Microsoft’s MSN and other rivals.
Getting AOL visitors to consume more videos is a matter of both supply and demand. To ensure a generous flow of content, the company has forged partnerships with a slew of premium video producers including ESPN, Vogue, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast and Simon & Schuster. It has also signed on a roster of content-area “experts” like fitness guru Tracy Anderson, former NFL star Tiki Barber and lifestylist Molly Sims.
AOL splits ad revenue with partners. Most of the revenue comes in the form of pre-roll advertising, but Sullivan is aiming to do more “integrated collaborations” like the one it did with HSN. “That’s where we think growth will come from,” she says.
To get eyeballs on all those videos, AOL is featuring them more prominently on the page, and also paying more attention to the data showing how interest in different types of videos waxes and wanes according to the time of day. “For a lot of people, because video’s new, it’s been more of a ‘set it and forget it’ strategy,” says Sullivan.