E-Commerce Times Talkback
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Often, management shakeups are nothing more than bodies being moved around to let
investors know that no one is asleep at the switch. But in the case of Barry Schuler's
being shifted out of the CEO role at America Online, it's more. A whole lot more. AOL is
not the powerhouse of growth and revenue generation that investors thought they were
getting when the merger was first announced. That, not Schuler, is the real problem.
It is interesting that AOL-TW has hit a wall.
The only saving graces for the ISP are connection reliability and online tech support that will walk you thru any snafus.
However, having a toolbar take up 2 1/2" of your screen, frequent pop-ups, buddy lists/menus, a search engine that is pathetic are just a few major sore spots. Having subscribed to AOL since the beginning, between MSN and AOL, AOL won out.
The only thing that I associate with Time Warner is Looney Tunes and the production of Time Magazine that is off the mark in predicting their person of the year as it is in journalistic integrity. Maybe the execs think that such a merger was a good deal and would somehow topple over nations, uh, other media companies. Shuffling people around is interesting news, but the bottom line is the same, deliver the goods or find another source. If the "giant" is indeed heading in the right direction, we can look forward to rich interface and service that rivals a MAC in producing movies on dvd. Or we can look forward to being stuck with one good thing (connection) and suffer thru the rest of the pitches that AOL succeeds in throwing at you when you are online.
Sure AOL-TW hit the wall. What media company hasn't? The go-go years of the Internet were an aberration, and AOL was along for the ride with the rest of us.
Besides, Barry is an idea guy. A vision guy. He sees things. He'll be okay and will probably enjoy his role much more than being worried about the dull business side of it all.
That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
Since advertising is driven by commerce, and since the entire AOL Time Warner beast is dependent on advertising, then AOL could significantly help itself if only e-commerce could regain its lost oomph. In my opinion, the only thing preventing that is the missing function of stores. Specifically, since conventional stores "store", buyers and sellers can securely exchange goods without personally having to meet; however, since the majority of consumers can't predictably be home to receive home-delivered goods, most won't even risk ordering. To illustrate, last June I asked the market research firm Ipsos-Reid to ask the following question in a telephone survey of 1,000 people: "If nobody in your family could be home to receive home-delivered goods, would you be likely to even order them in the first place?" 78.6% said "no".
Years ago the US Postal Service solved its own "missing store" problem with mailboxes. In my opinion, bigger/more functional delivery boxes could do the same for the entire consumer-direct economy -- AOL Time Warner included.