The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

AOL still makes most of its money off millions of dial-up subscribers

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AOL considers itself an advertising and media company. But it still relies on 2.3 million dial-up subscription customers  for the bulk of its profits.

The company's latest earnings report on Wednesday showed that while the firm pulls in most of its revenue from advertising, it still makes the most money off the division that includes those old-fashioned dial-up subscribers.

The company also reported that it made an average of $20.48 in revenue, per user, during the past three months.

So who are these people? AOL doesn't break it down but does say in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the average subscriber has been paying the company for 14 years.

In other words, this is no new phenomenon. In fact, my Switch colleague Brian Fung noted the same trend last year, using some back-of-the-envelope math indicating that 2.2 percent of all American households were paying for AOL's dial-up service -- the latest figures put that number at around 1.9 percent.

The subscriber pool -- as one might expect -- is steadily declining.

To be fair to AOL, the company does know that the dial-up ride won't last forever. The company has seen a modest growth in the number of people who visit its Web properties and advertising network in the past few months. It's also still paying for its failed local news endeavor, Patch, which it no longer owns but did drag down its display advertising numbers, which fell to $144 million from $146 million at the same time last year. The company said that without including Patch figures, display ad revenue was actually up 9 percent.

Maybe the remaining subscribers are just stuck in their ways--or maybe they don't have access to broadband. Still, just as a public service announcement: check your credit card bill just in case you think you might be paying for AOL every month but don't need it anymore.