The acquisition of The Huffington Post by Aol earlier this month claimed its first major executive casualty, as Aol Media president David Eun announced that he will leave the company when the transaction closes, as Arianna Huffington, who was named president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, will take over Eun’s responsibilities.
Aol also announced that Aol Ventures president Jon Brod is leading the integration of Aol and HuffPost, and he will be named chief operating officer of Huffington Post Media Group once the deal is final, reporting to Huffington.
The emails to Aol staff from Eun (via TechCrunch) and Armstrong (via AdAge) follow after the jump.
I wanted to reach out to you personally about my decision to leave the company. I came to Aol last year to be the leader of the media organization. With the historic acquisition of The Huffington Post, my role and responsibilities as president, Aol Media are changing. Tim and I have discussed at length how I might continue within the new organizational structure, but ultimately, there isn’t a role that matches what I am seeking to do.
I believe this acquisition is great for Aol, and I’ve been happy to count Arianna as a friend for a number of years. This deal would never have happened without all of your hard work and accomplishments this past year. From our homepage relaunch to massive video growth to significant increases in external traffic, you have been at the forefront of digital media — and this is only the beginning.
I am extremely proud of all that you have accomplished this year. Recent days have given me an opportunity to reflect on just how far we’ve come, and the progress is striking:
We started with a plan to win:
Within my first month, we implemented a high-level strategy that has remained our north star: high-quality content at scale.
We created a roadmap showing how to equip our talented editors and writers (high quality) with the best practices, technology, tools, and insights possible (scale).
We realized the need to focus and have done so aggressively, from managing 300 disparate URLs to today’s laser-focused efforts to prioritize 13 key towns.
We executed faster than ever:
We completed 11 Summer Sprints and Dashes against very aggressive timelines.
We conducted 7 a.m. “swarm reviews” of 33 sites and identified more than 2,800 product and editorial bugs, 95 percent of which were fixed within weeks.
Two core elements of our strategy, Aol.com and Aol Video, were relaunched in a matter of months, while 22 other sites and subsites have been relaunched, with eight more in the development queue currently.
We rolled-out Project Devil with sales and engineering colleagues in the fall and are on our way of rolling it across every town.
We grew to more than 40 mobile apps, working closely with our mobile applications group, including the recent addition of Aol.com and Engadget for iPad at CES.
We doubled-down on our strengths and talent:
We successfully appointed or hired new leaders for the platform, entertainment, homepage, news, video, programming, health, SEO, and marketing groups.
We added TechCrunch into our Aol Technology group (Engadget, Switched, TUAW), making Aol the hands-down leader in technology news and content.
We demonstrated a commitment to high-quality content by forming an editorial advisory council comprised of some of the best journalists in the industry, who developed and documented “Aol Editorial Standards” for the first time.
We retained top performers across the entire organization — you, in the face of all the demands of our “start around.”
We saw incredible RESULTS in key areas of focus:
External entries: In the nine months before February 2010, external entries to Aol content sites declined 26 percent. Since February 2010, they have grown 23 percent. This means we are executing against our key goal becoming less dependent on homepage/client traffic to drive the media business.
Video: Through organic growth (+200 percent year to year) and the 5min acquisition, we have scaled the comScore rankings from No. 11 in September to No. 5 in January. We now generate more UVs than Facebook, Hulu, Microsoft, Fox, and CBS. Since September 2010, Aol Video UVs have grown 62 percent and videos viewed grew 49 percent, while the overall video market declined on both metrics.
Aol.com: The new Aol.com launched Nov. 1, and all core metrics are up: Search revenues are up 36 percent y/y (versus -24 percent the year before), referrals to local are up ~200 percent, and video views are up ~600 percent. Engagement has improved, generating more than 50 million incremental PVs from December to January alone, and increasing steadily to more than 40 million visitors per month, significantly higher than all of our top competitors: MSN (37 million), Yahoo! (34 million), and the entire New York Times Web site (30 million).
This is just a small portion of what we have accomplished together because there are simply too many to note and too many people to thank individually here. I believe in the future of Aol in large part because of your incredible talent, professionalism, and passion, and I am grateful that we had an opportunity to work together.
As I always say, “Keep going!” and know that I’ll be rooting for you. In the meantime, I’ll be available throughout the integration planning process as we await deal approval and have offered to do whatever I can to ensure a smooth transition.
It’s been an honor to work with you.
Aol is going to take some important steps this week to strengthen the comeback and our investment in the future of the content business and our best-in-class brands across the globe. We want to inform, entertain, connect, and help people — on a local and global scale.
We continue to put significant bets behind our strategy of high-quality content and advertising at scale — on Aol properties and our growing network of publishing partners. We have improved our content properties organically, acquired leading properties with incredible talent, and partnered with some of the most creative people and brands in our industry. The world needs great content, video, and journalism and we will continue to grow our investment in brands and talent.
The Huffington Post and the Aol integration teams have been hard at work collaborating on eight separate work streams that contain more than 1,000 items that need to be integrated. Having done significant deals on the Internet in the past, it is clear that the combination of teams and brands will create significant value in many ways, and the integration will move quickly once the deal is closed. We have focused our time and energy on the 80/80/80 model, and The Huffington Post will accelerate our ability to serve women, local, and influencers in a more meaningful way on our properties and allow us to also focus on our growing network business.
As we do with important topics, we have an employees-first announcement on the organizational design we will be implementing after The Huffington Post deal is closed. The organizational updates below will deliver meaningful improvements to Aol’s overall business agility and speed as we tackle the focused vision we have as a company. We will simplify the organization and leverage talent and ideas in a much more significant way. Here is a high-level summary of the post-merger organization, and we will be working with all of you to make sure you understand how any of these changes affect the current work we are doing. Here is a summary:
Huffington Post Media Group: Upon closing of the acquisition, we will be forming the Huffington Post Media Group to house all content and local experiences under the editorial leadership of Arianna Huffington, whose new title will be president and editor-in-chief. Arianna’s vision is clear: Create real-time engagement and enlightenment for our millions of users, while continuing to build a comprehensive source of compelling news, entertainment, information, and opinion. Arianna will drive the content and production cycles for all editorial functions, with all editorial staff reporting up through her.
With the formation of the Huffington Post Media Group, David Eun has decided to step down from his role as president, Aol Media. David and I discussed different roles for him in the new organization but came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a fit for what he is looking for at this point in his career. David will be available throughout the integration planning process to help guide the integration of The Huffington Post and Aol Media. This deal could not have been possible without David’s stewardship of Aol Media over the past year and the tangible progress he has made. He is a big reason why we were able to acquire The Huffington Post, and we will always count him as a member of the Aol family.
Jon Brod has been leading Aol’s integration efforts since we announced the acquisition. In addition to his current role as president, Aol Ventures, Jon will take on the additional responsibility of COO of the Huffington Post Media Group once the acquisition has closed. As COO, Jon will report directly to Arianna on all editorial matters and report directly to me on all business matters including distribution, business operations, marketing, analysis, and partnership alignment. Jon will also, in conjunction with Aol Advertising, optimize profitability across the properties.
Networks/Publishers: We have acquired some of the best entrepreneurs in the industry and have realized that there is an opportunity to massively scale our network business. We have literally thousands of partners and customers in the publishing space that want to take advantage of our 80/80/80 expertise in content and advertising. We will seize this opportunity and build and develop the publisher business that includes the advertising network, video network, and scaled content production. Ned Brody will now be charged with overseeing all network B2B offerings including Ad.com, ADTECH, 5Min, Pictela, Seed, and StudioNow. GoViral in Europe will be highly coordinated with the networks team through Kate Burns, who leads our European operations. Our networks will be the best in the business to scale out the Internet, and this new organization will be the first integrated publisher-services group to serve combined content and advertising services at a massive scale, encompassing video, brand ads, content, and ad serving.
Advertising: The global advertising teams will remain business as usual under the leadership of Jeff Levick and will not be changing structure. The Huffington Post sales force will continue to focus on selling and servicing its customers and will be joining the Aol sales force following the close of the acquisition. Jeff is working closely with The Huffington Post sales leadership to plan the integration of those teams, and we are expecting both teams to track to their goals during this transition. As we ramp up the publishing and network group, the global advertising teams will have more opportunity to innovate advertising, and we expect to have more products like Project Devil to roll out across the combined properties.
Consumer Applications and Commerce: Brad Garlinghouse will continue to lead consumer applications, focusing on building inspired products for our users, including all of Aol’s mobile (and tablet applications), Aol Mail, AIM, and new additions to the team like about.me. These efforts remain critical to driving engagement for all of Aol’s content experiences, and Brad will work very closely with The Huffington Post Media Group and Paul Berry, the chief technology officer of that group and current CTO of The Huffington Post. In addition, I have asked Brad to lead a newly constituted commerce group for the company and look to develop new opportunities and initiatives across all of Aol’s sites. Finally, the entire consumer applications and commerce team will champion how we can better embrace all of our users to be treated as members — all part of the Aol community.
Paid Services: Artie Minson will take on leadership of paid services in addition to his role as chief financial and administrative officer. Paid services will continue on its path to make more exciting progress in scaling the subscription-services business that now serves hundreds of thousands of new customers, and it will also be instituting a new enhanced membership program. Our paid services customers are an important part of the Aol user base, and we will continue to look for ways to super serve their experiences going forward.
Corporate: Artie will also oversee the following corporate functions, including human resources, corporate communications, brand marketing, business development, M&A, investor relations, finance, accounting, and internal audit. By combining the corporate functions with the paid services business, we will continue to focus on serving our most valued customers — our members.
International: International will become a more important part of the Aol business during 2011 and 2012 as we re-enter markets in our global platforms. The business leaders in The Huffington Post Media Group, Networks Group, Advertising, Consumer Applications & Commerce, and Paid Services will drive global plans in their verticals and be supported by the regional leaders in Europe, Asia, Canada, and Emerging Markets. We want our strategies and operational cadence to be global, but we are counting on strong regional leaders to drive execution and identify regional opportunities for growth. Ned Brody will lead our regional operational planning and analytics, as well as running the networks group. Ned will partner with the vertical business leaders and with international leads in local markets to plan and measure our strategies around the world.
Tech: As CTO, Alex Gounares will continue leading the engineering and tech teams globally. Technology is the bedrock that all the businesses rely on, and we have made great strides to simplify and innovate in almost all areas of the company.
Legal: As general counsel, Julie Jacobs will continue to lead the legal team, including compliance and public policy. In addition, she will continue to work closely with our board of directors in her role as corporate secretary.
We will be holding a call at noon ET today (Thursday) to answer any questions you may have.
There is a detailed integration schedule by date and function, and we are holding daily meetings with Aolers and The Huffington Post. Once we close the deal, we will send out more information on the overall next steps and hold interim team meetings to make sure everyone is informed and can ask questions.
We can help lead the next phase of the Internet, and we will stay on strategy and focus on execution. Let’s make magic.