Sam Harrelson

AIM Mail Widgets: Webmail Finally Growing Up

I logged into my AIM mail account today. That’s not something I do frequently. However, if these new widgets I found waiting for me are any indication of future development, I may be giving AIM (how about AOL Mail?) a second look.

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AOL is famous for having been a walled-garden portal in the past. However, as I wrote last week, AOL is really on the ball with the whole spirit of the open web by introducing ways to bring in content from such places (competitors?) as Yahoo Mail, GMail, Twitter, Facebook, etc on the main AOL homepage, which does millions of impressions every month.

And the results from this newfound embracing of openness are more engagement, more pageviews and more attention. AOL is on to something.

With these new widgets in AIM mail, you can integrate Yahoo Mail, contacts, AIM, AOL Finance, Mapquest, etc within your inbox. GMail has this same feature with its Labs platform, so it’s good to see competition there. The trick with AIM is that they are bringing in properties from outside the AOL universe (unless the AIM Mail team knows something about a Yahoo/AOL deal that we don’t). Nifty.

However, my main question is if this is a sign of the future? Will you eventually be able to update Twitter or your Facebook status (or send Facebook messages) within AIM or AOL mail as you can on the AOL home page? If so, that will be very compelling. Will I ditch GMail for AIM even if that happens? Perhaps not, but I will definitely take a second look at my AOL/AIM mail.

It’s time for web-based email clients to grow up and become platforms instead of proprietary gardens of in-house developers. I’m glad to see AOL is helping to make that happen.




AOL Opening Up to Growth

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Bill Wilson, AOL’s EVP of Programming, emailed me a followup to my post on AOL’s recent successes to let me know that the new comScore Media Metrix reports were out.

AOL had significant growth both in the passive page view metric as well as the more active attention metrics. New visitors and users were also both up 9% this year over last.

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The corporate press release with all of its statistical goodness can be found here:

AOL Sites Hit Record Audience Reach and Engagement in October | AOL Corporate: “AOL programming sites hit all-time high traffic numbers and marked the 21st month of consecutive year-over-year growth for unique visitors, according to the October 2008 comScore Media Metrix report. Unique visitors to AOL’s programming content sites grew 7% year-over-year to 54.3 million in October, and page views more than doubled, up 101% year-over-year to 4.2 billion. Engagement (total minutes) grew 51% year-over-year in October. Total minutes reached an all-time high on AOL.com, http://aol.com, growing 27% year-over-year. Additionally, AOL.com page views grew 27%, and unique visitors and total visitors were up 9%, year-over-year, as the site further opened up to third-party content, services and features. In addition, AOL Webmail, http://mail.aol.com, reached an all-time high of 3.5 billion page views marking a 31% year-over-year growth. “

As I wrote in my post last week, AOL is on the right path with their decision to open up and allow existing and new users to leverage the AOL.com homepage as their home base for the web. We’ve recently seen Yahoo and just this week Microsoft’s Live.com follow in similar paths as well as Google with the iGoogle platform.

I don’t think we’re in a return phase of the “power of the portal,” but we are seeing the metaphor of the portal being expanded to encompass social media and social networks and real time (AIM) data deliverability and consumption.

Pay attention to AOL and Platform-A.




AOL Mail Team Blows It Bigtime

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AOL is, on the whole, doing things right by its users and the web in general these days.

However, the mail team blew it with this bone-headed post complaining about GMail and written on the level of a jealous 14 year old girl that didn’t make the cheerleading squad but wore the same outfit as the prom queen last Tuesday at the basketball game.

Come on, AOL. You’re better than this. Don’t you have a pretty strict PR dept??

Make sure to read the comment thread for readers’ reactions.

AOL Mail Blog: “An Open Letter to Gmail: Happy Halloween! We love your costume!”




AOL and General Motors Partner on Auto Channel

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AOL and GM have joined forces on the auto front…

AOL and General Motors Partner on Auto Channel: “AOL has partnered with General Motors to launch a channel within AOL Money & Finance geared for small businesses who are grappling with costly auto-related expenses.

The new section, dubbed Small Business Autos (smallbusiness.aol.com/business-auto-center) features tips and tools for businesses seeking auto loans and lower cost fuel options. Among the site’s initial headlines are ‘Deducting Car Expenses’ and ‘Maximize Your Office on Wheels.’ Also included is Mapquest’s gas prices tool, which helps travelers and businesses find the best gas prices in a given geographical area.”

In many ways, this is a smart play for both companies as they look for more long term growth and results from the direct online (and pre-qualified) traffic searching for problem solving measures in an economic downturn.

The question I have is how or whether AOL will leverage its buy.at affiliate platform in conjunction with this partnership.

Anyone from AOL have insight?




AOL Combines buy.at with Goowy Widgets

AOL’s integration of its services into the Platform-A advertising operation continues as it is now combining the recently acquired Goowy widget application with its buy.at affiliate network (itself acquired last year).

This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. First, this opens up affiliate marketing, in earnest, to the social web. Affiliate marketing has traditionally been restricted to the realm of static sites and blogs because of limited tracking technology and creatives. However, this widget play changes the game.

For example, Ticketmaster.com is the first buy.at advertiser to work with Platform-A in developing and distributing this new affiliate feature. The widget, called “EventEngine,” can be tailored to promote specific Ticketmaster events. All ticket purchases that originate from Ticketmaster’s widget are credited to the buy.at affiliate network publisher.

Once a publisher places a widget on their website, anyone (including the publisher) can grab that widget and place it on various locations on the Web, including social networks, desktops and blogs. The original publisher earns revenue for each sale driven by the widget.

Secondly, this makes sense for advertisers. Ticketmaster’s example with EventEngine shows that widgets can and will transform the online advertising and marketing landscape in the coming years by leveraging the best of the social web and performance marketing. In many ways, this is the type of solution that many of us have been calling for, and it is great to see an ad or affiliate network finally answering the call.

Nice work, Platform-A.