Peter Kafka

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Another Googler Goes to AOL: YouTube Boss Dave Eun Replaces Bill Wilson as Content Boss

Former Google sales boss Tim Armstrong has brought a slew of former colleagues with him to AOL, but this may be his highest-profile hire so far: Dave Eun, who has been in charge of content deals at Google and YouTube, will replace Bill Wilson, one of the last high-profile AOL guys from the pre-Armstrong era.

The deal to bring Eun on board was finalized last night, Armstrong told employees in an all-hands email (see below). It’s not a huge shock to see him leave–he’s done a lot of heavy lifting there already, and sources say that like many Google (GOOG) executives who have left recently, Eun felt he couldn’t move much higher in the company.

Eun used to have a role that paralleled Armstrong’s at Google: Make peace with traditional content companies. But instead of trying to sell them ads or negotiate search deals, Eun was supposed to hammer out deals to help get their content onto Google. Most recently, he was focused on getting TV networks and movie studios to put stuff on YouTube, which involved new ad-supported deals (see: Turner, ESPN, etc.) as well as the possibility of renting clips by the stream.

Wilson is a longtime AOL (AOL) guy who rose up the ranks and was pushing for the original content strategy that Armstrong embraced even before the last regime change. He seems to be leaving on better terms than other pre-Armstrong executives, as he’ll be staying with the company until May to manage the transition.

By leaving just as AOL has spun off on its own, Wilson is giving up a chance at some significant upside via low-priced stock options. But sources say Wilson doesn’t have another job lined up.

In an interview this afternoon, Armstrong says that Wilson approached him about leaving the company “several weeks ago”. When I asked him if Eun’s last role–developing partnerships with big media outlets–signaled a shift in AOL’s “roll your own–cheaply” strategy, he made a point of saying that’s not the case. Eun’s hire will simply “supercharge” AOL content plans, he said.

Nonetheless, Armstrong did allow that AOL has some significant content partnerships to announce in the coming months.

Here’s an interview I conducted with Eun late last year, focused on YouTube’s efforts to turn a profit and add new content:

And here’s Armstrong’s note to the troops:

As you know, content is at the core of our strategy and we have broad aspirations in this space. We’re focused on scaling our content platforms, production and partnerships to offer quality, original content that will engage consumers and bring them–and their friends–back to our properties time and again.

The fact that we have such a strong foundation in the content space is due to the determination and dedication of Bill Wilson. He saw the opportunity presented by audience fragmentation on the Web and positioned AOL’s content offerings in a number of key verticals. Early in the new year, Bill told me that although he remains committed to the vision and strategy of AOL, he’s ready for a break.

After nine years with the company and after the significant changes we made this year moving from licensing content to becoming a principle in content, he wants to take a step back. Bill built a strong management team and laid the groundwork for the content strategy that we’re now pursuing. While I’m disappointed by his decision, I respect his intent and have asked him to work with me, not only to find his replacement but also to transition with that person to ensure that, as a company, we don’t miss a beat on the execution of our content strategy.

Bill is a talented executive and great person, and I’ll be working with him closely and supporting his transition. Bill cares about AOL, he cares about the content and the products, and he has worked incredibly hard to keep AOL on the media map.

I’m pleased to announce that David Eun will be coming on board in March to head up our content business. Some of you may remember David from his tenure at Time Warner where he helped to oversee AOL as Vice President, Operations, for the Media & Communications Group reporting to Don Logan.

David, who joins us now from YouTube and Google, has had a long career in offline and online content and is the person responsible for managing Google and YouTube’s content partnerships. David brings an impressive breadth of media experience to AOL at an exciting juncture as AOL forges a new future as a high-scale producer and partner in the content space. He will be based in New York.

Bill will be staying on until May 1 to help ensure a smooth transition with David, who begins work March 1.

You may wonder why this topic wasn’t raised during yesterday’s Q4 employee call. My preference is always to share this type of news with you in person, but the facts are that there were elements of this announcement that were not finalized until last night. This drove us to announce this news this morning–to our employees first.

As we have discussed, AOL is now in a phase of transition from playing defense to playing offense. As I said on the employee earnings call yesterday, AOL’s back in the game and we’re playing to win. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re going to do it. Please join me in welcoming David back to AOL and in thanking Bill for his dedication and leadership at AOL – TA

And here’s the release:

AOL NAMES DAVID EUN PRESIDENT OF AOL MEDIA AND STUDIOS

Eun Will Oversee All AOL Content, SEED.com and Studio Operations

New York, NY, February 4, 2010 – AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) today announced that David Eun will join the company as President of AOL Media and Studios, effective March 1. As AOL’s chief content executive, Eun will be responsible for the company’s more than 80 content sites, its new SEED.com publishing platform, as well as the newly acquired StudioNow video platform and AOL’s NYC and LA studios.

Eun will report to AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong and will be based in New York. He succeeds Bill Wilson, President, AOL Media, who will transition out of the role after nine years with AOL.

Until 2006, Eun helped to oversee AOL as Vice President, Operations for the Media & Communications Group at Time Warner Inc. In that role, he helped provide operational oversight and develop new businesses, particularly in digital distribution and broadband content and services, for the company’s AOL, Time Warner Cable and Time, Inc. divisions. Eun joins AOL from Google, where as Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, he was responsible for managing global content partnerships with Google and YouTube.

“David brings an impressive breadth of media experience to AOL at an exciting juncture for the company as we focus on scaling our content platforms, production and partnerships to offer quality, original content that will engage consumers and bring them–and their friends–back to our properties time and again. I’m delighted to welcome him back to AOL as we continue to pursue our strategy and mission in digital content and journalism,” Armstrong said.

“Bill Wilson has been a driving force for content at AOL and under his leadership the quantity and quality of our premium branded and niche offerings have expanded significantly. On behalf of AOL, I want to thank Bill for the energy and dedication he has brought to the role. Bill has been an outstanding leader at AOL,” Armstrong added.

“AOL has a unique opportunity to bring together its core strengths in the key areas of content and journalism, distribution, and advertising to engage its users, partners and advertisers in a way very few companies can. These three elements will be fundamental to success as the media and technology industries evolve and converge,” Eun said. ”And after nearly 15 years of seeing this convergence approach, I couldn’t be more excited to be returning to AOL to help Tim and his team capture that great promise.”

AOL is one of the largest producers of original content on the Web, with more than 80 official AOL and custom-built sites including more than 20 which rank in the top five in their U.S. comScore Media Metrix category. Approximately 80 percent of AOL’s content is originally produced by a growing team of staff and freelance journalists, including nine Pulitzer Prize Winners. AOL also produces more than 50 original video productions a month at state-of-the-art studios in New York and Los Angeles as well as through a network of freelance video producers.

SEED.com, AOL’s premium content management system, assigns, buys and distributes work for all of AOL’s properties.  StudioNow, which AOL acquired in January, allows the company to integrate a fully functional video creation platform into SEED and leverage a national network of creative professionals to develop and produce quality video in a way that is rapid, efficient and scalable.

Before joining Time Warner, Eun was a partner at Arts Alliance, a venture capital firm focusing on digital media, information technology and business services. He started his career in media at NBC, where he led some of NBC’s first cross-media initiatives involving television programming, the Internet, and retail consumer products. He is a former management consultant with Bain & Co., and attended Harvard Law School and Harvard College, where he graduated magna cum laude in government.


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