Time-Warner’s AOL unit saw profits fall by 26%, and has been in talks to split and sell off AOL to boost the parent company’s financials. The drop in AOL’s fortunes came not because of a shift from an access model to an ad model per se, but because of the shift to broadband Internet.
Broadband is not an ISP business; it’s an access carrier business. However, the fate of AOL as a portal is linked to broader problems on the Internet, which include an increased polarization of sites as search, entertainment or social networks. There are strong incumbents in the first space. The second is yet to be proved as a source of financial gain, and entertainment is where everyone who isn’t a search player wants to be. Crowded markets don’t make money for anyone, and the faddish nature of Internet viewing won’t help. T-W should sell AOL off now while it can.