Posted December 3, 2009 10:40 am by with 11 comments

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AOL Running ManIs this a classic case of “meet the new boss, it’s the same as the old boss” (hat tip to Roger Daltrey and the boys)? It is being revealed that AOL has a plan to bring itself back to prominence and it is oddly reminiscent of the company’s past AND its CEO’s past as well.

How you ask? Well, apparently there is a concerted effort underway to generate as much ‘craptent’ (that’s crappy content for those of you who need an assist) as possible to try to gain some ground in the search engine results. Techdirt has a little fun in helping us remember the days of mailboxes full of AOL CDs. How patently ‘ungreen’ of AOL. I don’t miss those days, do you?

Remember how AOL first became “famous”? It cluttered the world (and our garbage dumps) with millions upon millions of CD-ROMs offering “try AOL for free!” It seems that pollution is in AOL’s genes, and it just can’t get away from it. How else to explain AOL’s new plan to rebuild its brand: to flood the internet with poorly written, but quickly written, content based on whatever search terms are hot. Danny Sullivan points out the amusing fact that AOL is looking to leverage search engines for more traffic this way, at the very same time as others, such as Rupert Murdoch, are claiming that Google is “stealing” from him in sending traffic, and he’s considering opting-out.

So that addresses the company’s past, now let’s take a look at Tim Armstrong’s history before he became the Google Golden Boy which then landed him at the head of AOL. An article from ClickZ back in March brings to the fore an interesting piece of data that Armstrong seems to want to forget happened but he apparently isn’t afraid to apply some of the tricks he learned. It is widely recognized that Associated Content was the master of ‘craptent’ generation for search engine gain. Earlier this year it looked like Armstrong was looking to be at arm’s length with that fact.

Associated Content has been criticized for helping to fuel poor-quality Web content, but is it rewriting history, too?

Since Tim Armstrong, once touted as co-founder of AC, has been making headlines for ditching Google to take the CEO role at AOL, I figured I’d poke around the AC site and see what his affiliation with the firm is currently. Well, lo and behold, Armstrong’s name seems to have been scrubbed from the corporate info on the site. Once more than willing to broadcast that Armstrong was a co-founder of AC, the company’s site currently states, “Associated Content was founded by Luke Beatty in Denver, Colorado, in 2005.”

I guess Armstrong went back in time and disassociated himself.

Armstrong held a board position with Associated Content until March 2008 but as of the writing of that article back in March of this year he was still a an “active investor” according to a company spokesperson.

So it seems that Mr. Armstrong is determined to keep the word associated in his bio, as in he may still be associated with developing crappy content to get search results. You think his time at Google taught him a thing or two? I guess we’ll see. That is if we can wade through the dreck that AOL is looking to offer to the masses.

Good luck with that “strategery” which many are already bemoaning.

Effectively, it’s a plan based on adding crap into the system to trick search engines. It’s pollution and web spam as a business model. But as folks like Umair Haque are fond of pointing out, business models based on tricking people and not adding any real value aren’t business models that will last.


  • This seems to me to be the age old black hat SEO technique called spamming. You’d think that somebody who was the “Golden Boy of Google” would know better than to make such a practice the company standard to get extra search engine love when it is commonly known that getting caught doing this crap by Google can mean getting completely excluded from Google’s index entirely.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Marketing to Beat the Taliban =-.

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  • Frank:

    As a firm believer in the idea that anyone is a content creator and everyone has the right to publish their thoughts and opinions, I totally respect your hostile commentary.

    That being said, I am going to defend over 300K contributors who use the Associated Content platform to produce thousands of content assets every day. These people range from trained, experienced media professionals to first-time content creators with experience or an opinion to share. You assert that they produce “crap.”

    Actually, they produce content that is diverse at the community itself. The AC platform supports every format and every topic. That makes it diverse. But what makes us perfectly diverse, it that Associated Content welcomes an encourages anyone to participate in the content economy and we believe that it is our responsibility to leave the community doors wide open. Quality content will perform well, drive profits and exposure for the contributor. Poor content may not.

    Associated Content is a platform that supports an open meritocracy. So, to say that our community publishes “craptent” is like saying that eBay is a market for only crappy goods. Like Associated Content, eBay is a platform that supports all levels and all intentions.

    As far as Tim Armstrong’s involvement in the Company is concerned, he was the the Company’s first investor. While, as you note, no longer sits on the board, he remains invested in the Company and is true believer in the right that we all have to create content and benefit from exposure and profit it may or may not bring – whether consumers consider it crap or not.

    Luke Beatty
    Founder & President
    Associated Content

    • Amen, Luke.

      That’s what makes this whole thing work. Let’s let the free market have its opinions and then let it decide who succeeds and fails. Couldn’t agree more.

      In our ‘defense’, however, we are not the only folks on this side of the fence as noted in the post.

      Best of luck.
      .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Please Stop Selling =-.

  • It would only leave them behind more if they would just create a “so-so” stream of content.

  • AOL will die in near future with these plans. Goolge will rise for sure.
    .-= Googleverse´s last blog ..Cannot Install or Update Chrome – Error, Corrupt or Failed Installation =-.

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