AOL is famous for making miscalculations. Once a powerhouse able to gobble up media giant Time Warner, it became the red-headed stepchild of Internet success stories. In August, CNN reported its shares had plummeted to an all time low.
Even Starboard Value, it’s largest shareholder isn’t happy about the company’s performance, going so far as to suggest an alternative board. The stock was nearly at an all time high at Friday’s close. I wouldn’t doubt if it dropped considerably tomorrow, but I could be wrong.
Now, the company that once pioneered change is profoundly silent as their OWN CUSTOMERS call for them to make some sort of statement as to why they feel Limbaugh is the best bet for their ad dollars.
AOL apparently doesn’t feel they need to build their relationship with customers. The company also owns the Huffington Post, the regional Patch.com’s, Mapquest and Tech Crunch. With names like that, they probably feel that they are safe for any negative consequences. But, up until now, it’s been a bad strategy.
The irony of AOL’s predicament seems to hinge on not wanting to address the situation head on or perhaps ego is taking over and CEO Tim Armstrong refuses to negotiate with bullies, which MIGHT be said for the people calling for Limbaugh’s sponsors to cut him loose. The problem with that scenario is that the “bullies” are AOL customers who are beginning to see extremely weak leadership. AOL should have been the first voice out of the gate, even if it was to simple say, ‘we are appalled and are looking into this.’
And, by the way, the “bully” who started the playground fight is the very person they are standing by. AOL needs some FEMALE leadership.
As I said in my earlier post:
I could have turned a blind eye to Limbaugh’s demeaning comments about Sandra Fluke like, “Well, what would you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have sex? What would you call that woman? You’d call ‘em a slut, a prostitute or whatever,” and “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.” Because he’s an idiot and he says stupid things. It was the comment below that creeped me out so much I got out my pitchfork and actively sought out his advertisers.
“So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.”
I used to LOVE TECH CRUNCH, but I don’t think I can look at them the same way anymore. That goes for MAPQUEST, PATCH and the HUFFINGTON POST.
Maybe AOL will weather the storm. Maybe they know that millions will tune into the Rush Limbaugh Show tomorrow to see what happens and they will realize a strong advertising reach. Unfortunately, standing by Limbaugh will surely dump some dirt on them and that smell is not going to be easy to wash off.