Late today there was a conference call for AOL Bloggers affected by the recent budget situation. Senior VP of Programming, Marty Moe, did most of the talking. For the most part, it was a warm fuzzy call that was clearly aimed at calming the fears of bloggers and bringing more clarity to budget situation.
It’s apparent that the message sent out to bloggers last week to stop posting was erroneous. Management wanted strict budget control for a week or so as the new budget process is refined. They did not want all posting to stop an any of the properties, and programmers who told their bloggers that were mistaken. (Yes, I was skeptical about how things were really supposed to go down, but after listening to Marty, I believe what I’ve written in this paragraph.)
It seems that there is still some planning and refining that needs to be done on the budget front. AOL’s blogging properties are bigger than ever before, and it almost seems as if they weren’t ready. But I’m now looking toward the future and the likelihood that there will not be a budget crisis in the near future (or even a situation that appears to be a budget crisis).
The fact is that the blogs are the bread and butter for AOL as its dial-up service continues to face stiff competition and isn’t the revenue source it used to be. It’s in the company’s best interest to keep good bloggers, and one way to do that is by offering predictability and strategic management. I talked to Marty privately tonight, and I’m actually very hopeful about the direction in which we’re heading.
Which is why it ticks me off that someone gave a mole the number to our conference call. The call was for AOL bloggers only, not for outside parties. But within a half hour of the end of the conference call, someone at ReadWriteWeb had an article up about the call. And the article isn’t a fair representation of what was discussed on the call.
Marshall Kirkpatrick refers to us as “angry bloggers,” and there’s no evidence to back up that statement. None of us even got to talk. How could anyone determine from a bunch of silent callers that we are angry? In reality, I think we were a bunch of “concerned bloggers.” There are people who rely on their blogging income, and they were rightfully concerned about the budget situation and the job stability going forward.
Marty clued us in on the financial health of AOL’s blogsites: It’s very good. The AOL blog network had record traffic in July at over 300 million page views. Double digit revenue growth for the blogs is expected in 2008. There has been international expansion. Each blogsite is going to have its own budget, which should be easier to manage than the one large budget that the sites shared. Blogger pay has grown by 35% in 2008, and full-time staff is up 20%.
Kirkpatrick says “…bloggers complained in the call.” Well that’s not exactly true. As I’ve already said, we didn’t get a chance to talk. We were able to email questions to Marty in advance of the call, and he answered them live. None of the questions seemed “angry” to me. They seemed to be written by bloggers who are concerned and wanted more information.
I’m not impressed with what was written in the ReadWriteWeb article. The writer says that morale is low and the conference call made it worse. I disagree. He says bloggers are fighting back against management. As far as I know, this is not true. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the bloggers in the AOL network as unhappy. I think it’s fair to say that we’re all feeling a bit cautious and we’re waiting to see how things shake out.