Kara Swisher

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With David Eun Departure, "The AOL Way" Makes Way for the Arianna Way

[UPDATE: This post has been updated in brackets, including clarifications and one important correction, in several places below.]

Despite all the polite throat-clearing in the various internal memos coming out of AOL today, with a rejiggering of its content management–including the [elimination of the job] of Media and Studios President David Eun [from the original one he had been appointed to by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong earlier this year]–what is really happening is what sources said will likely be a [drastic rejiggering of] more recent strategies of how to run its media business.

That is likely to begin with the hip-checking of [a controversial, if miscontrued, internal document titled] “The AOL Way,” which many sources tell BoomTown was [sponsored by Armstrong and created to stress best new media practices, including to garner better traffic], once the $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post is completed.

[Whatever the original intent of "The AOL Way," it was badly received both inside and outside the New York-based company, thought of as too focused on SEO and not as much on creating the kind of high-quality journalism loudly touted by Armstrong.]

And that could mean a new and [perceptually journalistically friendly] direction forged by its the Web site’s Co-founder and new AOL editorial chief Arianna Huffington will take place.

In fact, much of what has [been put into place since Armstrong took over, from an editorial perspective at least,] is being questioned and reevaluated.

While what exactly that means is still being formulated by Huffington and others at AOL, it will likely not be using most of the mostly by-the-numbers recommendations of the infamous “AOL Way” deck.

Subtitled “Content, Product, Media Engineering and Revenue Management” and leaked to the media, it was all about how the struggling Internet portal thinks about its content properties.

Pretty much like cows to be milked, which has caused endless hand-wringing among the editorial troops at AOL. [While it might have been intended as a "best practices" memo for new media], this should come as no surprise, given damn-the-journalists-full-speed-ahead tone and SEO-overboard themes.

As reported by Silicon Alley Insider on February 1:

* AOL tells its editors to decide what topics to cover based on four considerations: Traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turn-around time.

* AOL asks its editors to decide whether to produce content based on “the profitability consideration.”

* The documents reveal that AOL is, when the story calls for it, willing to boost traffic by 5% to 10% with search ads and other “paid media.”

* AOL site leaders are expected to have eight ideas for packages that could generate at least $1 million in revenue on hand at all times.

* In-house AOL staffers are expected to write five to 10 stories per day.

* AOL knows its sites are too dependent on traffic from AOL.com, and it wants its editors to fix the problem by posting more frequently, with more emphasis on getting pageviews.

[It was Eun's job to push the themes in "The AOL Way,' of course, along with upgrading the content business at AOL, which has become its main focus under Armstrong's turnaround effort.

While Eun has added several measures to stress quality journalism at AOL, since he was brought in from Google with much hype a year ago, having the colorful and influential Huffington as the flagship editorial personality at AOL--paired with trusted Armstrong lieutenant Jon Brod as COO--proved irresistible to the AOL CEO.

Of course, that left Eun without the job he had been hired for, which has now essentially been split among Huffington, Brod and also AOL exec Ned Brody.

And while Armstrong offered him different opportunities within AOL, sources said, with his original position gone in the new regime, Eun declined and decided to depart.]

In his parting email to staff, in fact, Eun continued to stress the numbers achieved under his tenure.

But, at the start, he was clear:

“With the historic acquisition of The Huffington Post, my role and responsibilities as President, AOL Media are changing. Tim and I have discussed at length how I might continue within the new organizational structure, but ultimately there isn’t a role that matches what I am seeking to do.”

Nor, it seems, for “The AOL Way.”

For your enjoyment, here’s Eun in happier days–late January–in a jiggy video he did for the troops:


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