Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Rock, Meet Hard Place: More Details of AOL Layoffs–But Are There More to Come?


Earlier today, Silicon Alley Insider reported that layoffs at AOL, which had been announced in January, were finally taking place.

Actually, said an AOL insider, about 10 percent of the layoffs, or 70 people, have been let go since the announcement. The pace just got ratcheted up today, adding another 300 to the pyre at the troubled Time Warner (TWX) online division.

But, said several sources, the slashing of staff might go well beyond what has been announced, as AOL continues to drill down on its three-pronged strategy: social networking and communications (People Networks), content (MediaGlow) and advertising (Platform-A).

That’s no surprise since AOL’s options have landed, to say the least, in that dreaded rock-and-hard place.

The interest by Yahoo (YHOO) in merging with AOL, for example, has waxed and waned–it’s waned right now, sources said, though not completely–and there seem to be no true suitors on the horizon.

And new Platform-A head (and former Yahoo sales exec) Greg Coleman–whose business has to drive revenue growth–cannot perform miracles in such a weak environment, no matter what cool new products and offerings either People Networks head Joanna Shields or MediaGlow President Bill Wilson create.

Thus, with the ever-weakening economy, there is still fat to be cut out, especially since Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes either has to sell AOL off or make it work a whole lot better.

And working better likely means more cuts–and a whole lot more of them.

That’s caused a lot of people inside AOL and also a wider circle at Time Warner to increasingly point the finger of blame at AOL CEO Randy Falco, wondering if and when he will suffer too.

“Why Randy Falco gets to keep his job is a mystery to a lot of people,” said one top exec at another division.

While one might look at, say, the media giant’s magazine division and ask the same of its head, Ann Moore, the more obvious answer is that times are tough all over and not just at Time Warner.


Said an AOL insider who does not like Falco’s leadership, but was sympathetic: “He probably should have pushed to sell it off more when times were better, but that was being run by corporate, so now he just has to deal with a weak economy and an online property whose value has been declining for a long time.”

In any case, for now, there’s no joy in Mudville. When the domestic layoffs are done by the end of this month, a source said, the company will turn to international firings (it’s harder to dump folks in Europe, apparently).

But, as another baseball maxim goes: At least when it comes to cuts at AOL, it’s never over until it’s over.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus