Jason Del Rey

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AOL Has Mulled Launching “Bling Thing,” a New Subscription Commerce Business

Is there room for another subscription commerce business among the Birchboxes and Dollar Shave Clubs of the world? AOL apparently has been weighing that very question.

bling

The New York Internet giant, which has seen much change under CEO Tim Armstrong, has been working for at least several months on a new subscription commerce business that it is calling “Bling Thing,” according to two sources familiar with the plans, as well as a trademark application AOL has filed.

Whether AOL will bring this idea to the public seems to still be an open question inside the company, though. One source close to AOL said the idea has been shelved indefinitely as the company looks to focus on fewer brands within its content and product portfolio, rather than adding to it.

But a look at a trademark application for Bling Thing hints at what AOL has been working on: A business that would offer “subscriptions to receive boxes filled with assorted items in the fields of consumer products and consumer services.”

It’s not clear what exactly those products and services would be. Beauty products such as what Birchbox offers, for example, or something altogether different?

What is clear is that the move would at least partly be intended to give AOL another business line outside of advertising to help it diversify away from the shrinking Internet service business, which, as Peter Kafka wrote earlier this month, still accounts for all of the company’s profits.

It is also not certain what AOL is going for with the name, other than that Armstrong seems to have a thing for 1990s hip-hop references, if a postponed AOL TV commercial he helped create is any indication.

Name aside, it’s possible that Bling Thing could pan out to be a nice incentive for advertisers: Advertise with us, AOL’s pitch could go, and get your product or service preferred placement in our subscription packages.

That’s assuming that AOL could get people to sign up for the service. One way to do this would be to market the business to current AOL subscribers.

There had been some talk about Jon Brod possibly running the business, according to one source, but he will be taking over AOL Ventures following his recent resignation as CEO of AOL’s local content network Patch.

An AOL spokesman declined to comment.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work