‘We want to be the most important mobile media company in the world’ says AOL boss

Armstrong: data is our differentiator.

Armstrong: data is our differentiator.

The CEO of AOL has said he wants the global media company to become “the most important mobile media company”.

At AOL’s lavish Newfronts event in New York, Tim Armstrong talked up the company’s acquisition by US telco Verizon telling media: “The real master of the (media) universe is the thing that sits in your pocket which is your mobile device. The consumer is really in control.”

To that end the company is investing massively in emerging media spaces like virtual reality and live streaming. 

“They want to have integrated experiences and be enabled by things like video,” he said, highlighting how the company had launched products like Go90 six months ago to capture this demand.

Jimmy Maymann, executive vice president of AOL Content, told the room that VR was firmly on the agenda for AOL but that it was also focused on getting Go90 live streaming content out across many channels.

“I’m sure if you have been to any of the new fronts this week you will have seen the emphasis on virtual reality,” said Maymann. “We are very committed to virtual reality as well and it will have tonnes of benefits for us in terms of synergies together with our plan cutover of Go90 into the AOL tech stack.

“It will take Go90 from mobile only to mobile first but make it discoverable in more ways.”

The comments came as AOL last night held one of the most expensive Newfront presentations ever seen, taking over three city blocks in Manhattan.

AOL newfront

More than 2000 people attend AOL’s newfront last night.

The multi-million dollar event, headlined by rapper Snoop Dog and singer Demi Lovato, saw AOL seek to showcase its skills in new emerging media, such as virtual reality, while also announcing a new multimillion dollar AOL Build studio designed to help the company shoot 360º video.

Snoop AOL Dog

Rapper Snoop Dog was one of the big acts.

AOL announced it was being bought by Verizon in July last year but Armstrong noted this was just one of a number of key transactions it had done in recent months.

“In terms of some of the investing we have done overall – after the Horizon deal – we have done 10 major deals since. For example we took over Microsoft’s global advertising,” he said.

“We also bought Millennial Media which is one of the top three mobile advertising companies and one of the other things we bought was live streaming app Kanvas which is showing really strong growth.”

AOL is one of a number of digital media companies announcing new live streaming expansions at this years Digital Newfronts, but Armstrong noted it already had scale in this space saying: “We are already streaming more than 100m hours of live programming a day through all of our global partnerships.”

Armstrong added that the AOL data offering and programmatic would be important for marketers and agencies seeking to take advantage of the expansion into new areas.

“Underneath those products we have data which is the oil for this economy,” he said. “Data is really important for a number of our products that you will see tonight – like virtual reality, 360 videos etc. – all of that content from all brands relies on lots of data to basically build programming to distribute programming to the right consumer at the right time.

“Data today is the great differentiator. For us the combination of Verizon plus AOL we have one of the largest data sets in the world and we can bring media to people in a personalised and direct way.”

Armstrong argued that it would be the combination of right content and data that would frame the next couple of years for AOL and help it separate itself from the likes of Google and Facebook which he argued had seen their products largely commoditised.

“Technology over time becomes commoditised if there is one trend, whether it is the messaging platforms, search platforms, social platforms all of them in the last 12 months have become really focused on one thing which is content.

“The reason is that content is the thing that consumers love. Five to six years ago we moved into the content space and I think it’s the thing that has made us successful in the advertising space.”

Nic Christensen in New York


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