Media Lifeline: AOL UK

The former internet service provider has found new life in delivering content.

October 2006: AOL has started life as America Online, a US internet service provider - but following a strategic review, it decides that connectivity is going to become the commodity side of the internet economy. AOL decides to focus on its portals - and the ad revenues they attract - and begins selling off its ISP businesses around the world. In the UK, the buyer is Carphone Warehouse, which pays £370 million.

September 2007: AOL's UK managing director, Andy Jonesco, leaves to join BSkyB. Michael Steckler, MSN's head of interactive marketing, becomes the UK managing director and hires the former GCap commercial director Duncan George as his UK ad sales director.

March 2008: AOL's portals around Europe had been revamped across the summer of 2007. Now, its content strategy enters a new phase when it buys Bebo - a global social networking property with a strong UK profile - for $850 million. It extends its portfolio in the UK with the launch of AOL's US men's portal Asylum and another US property Spinner, the music blog site. But Steckler admits that ad revenue growth has been disappointing.

August 2008: AOL launched its ad sales structure, Platform-A, across Europe in June - and in July it had been confirmed that Steckler's remit would include its leadership in the UK. In August, he announces he has signed up its first client, Glasses Direct.

May 2009: AOL UK launches a new homepage that lets users access third- party e-mail accounts and social networking services from one place. It aims to replicate the success of the site in the US - since its relaunch in September 2008, page views have increased 7 per cent and total minutes per user are up 26 per cent. An integrated offering from Platform-A offers advertisers the chance to buy targeted text links under every section.

Fast forward ...

September 2009: UK broadcasters have been stymied by the Competition Commission in their efforts to introduce projects Kangaroo and Canvas. Now they seek a third-party honest broker to make these seem more independent. The Canvas project manager, Erik Huggers, once worked at MSN, which seems favourite to win the task. But AOL shocks the market by scooping the lead role - and Steckler bags the chief executive position.

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