AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, a man you’ve never heard of, delivered the world’s first nearly livestreamed firing last Friday wherein he canned Abel Lenz, Creative Director of a flailing, will never yield money, project known as Patch, just moments after Armstrong told everyone on the conference call that he didn’t care if there were leaks about the project’s status. Roll audio, the Soundcloud comments are gold:
Armstrong was the same guy at the head of the AOL wheel when they purchased and promptly destroyed the Huffington Post, turning it into a celebrity mag with Obama fiscal policy stories stuck on the same page as ‘top 10 shitty dresses at the Oscars,’ etc. What, you say HuffPo already had that? Fine, it did, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now and you could actually find what you were looking for. And, of course, AOL is the same slave driving, link driven, content-free zone where TC’s own Oliver Miller toiled and then wrote about back in 2011.
Let me just get this out, AOL is what a company looks like when a company has no core business. So no one should be surprised when a CEO, flailing like mad, fires his Creative Director, a man whose job it is to take pictures, for taking a picture. No one should be surprised when they believe that you can build an entire business off of malware ridden click bait. AOL’s desperately trying to transition from a failed all-in-one content provider into an also ran content aggregator after being spat out by Time Warner in 2009. Since then their two big buys have been Yahoo and HuffPo. One was already basically dead and the other is now a horrible mess.
It sort of puts this firing in context. People embarking on first careers need to take this to heart. When you’re failing everyone can smell it and hurting others at your company as a path to cathartic release only makes you look even worse. When you’re failing, don’t try to “assert yourself” in such a way as to cover over your failures. There’s no way to make a conference call about your failing company be about something else besides your failing company.
Let’s all take a minute to remember AOL the way it should be remembered, as a company that actually knew why it existed.