Web 2 Summit: Tim Armstrong On AOL Spin Off, Content, And A Mysterious New Tech

MG Siegler
Thursday, October 22, 2009; 2:02 PM

At the Web 2.0 Summit today in San Francisco AOL's chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong took the stage for a discussion with Federated Media's John Battelle. Armstrong, who was previously in charge of the Google ad group in America, took the AOL job in March as the company prepares the split from its parent, Time Warner.

The Armstrong talk can be summarized pretty easily: Content, content, content. Armstrong made it very clear that not only is AOL in the process of spinning off into its own public company, but that they are now going to be a content company. In fact, they've gone from 500 journalists to over 3,000 since he took over, he said. And that will keep growing.

The idea is to grow AOL's unique visitors and then figure out the best way to monetize it. But again, growth, will be the key. He's not sure if 2010 will see that significant growth, but after that, he expects they'll be going in the right way.

Notably, Armstrong also hinted at some new technology that AOL has been working on for the past 3 months now. When pressed, he would not say what it is, but said that they will be talking about it at a later date. Mysterious.

Armstrong says he took the AOL job partially because it was a risk. And he noted that if you're not working in the Internet industry to take risks, you shouldn't be in it. "If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough," he said.

Below find the full Q&A (paraphrased):

JB: You and Sergey dress a bit differently.

TA: This is his tie (laughs).

JB: Why take the AOL CEO job? You had other options, like a sandy beach.

TA: I wasn't thinking about leaving (Google) but the AOL thing came up. I'm a big believer that this is just the beginning for the Internet. AOL has a lot of things that people don't realize. It's undervalued. Google was a great experience, but I wanted to learn again. I have on this job in the first 6 months already. And the company was ready to change.

JB: Would you have taken the job if you knew you couldn't spin it out from Time Warner?

TA: That's not true. But it does make sense to spin it out.

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