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For spinoff, AOL rebrands itself as Aol.

AOL, which used to be AOL Time Warner, which used to be America Online, is now going to be Aol., as it begins new life on Dec. 9 as a spinoff from Time Warner, the company says.

Okay. Where to start on this one?

The Internet wags are already way ahead of me, lobbing in jokes, such as, "AOL? Aol.? LOL!"

It's pretty easy to be cynical about the changes at AOL, or perhaps Aol. Things have gone downhill for the company pretty steadily since the epic, and epically disastrous, merger with Time Warner in 2000, a $350 billion bet to create a new media giant. It never worked.

AOL got its name stripped off the combined company in 2003, because it was such a drag on Time Warner. A succession of chief executives -- Jonathan Miller, Randy Falco and now former Google sales guru Tim Armstrong -- have tried various ways to turn around the company, attempting to morph it from a dial-up Internet provider to an Internet advertising company and now a content company, it looks like.

Yearly job cuts have come as regularly as Christmas. Prior to next month's spinoff, AOL has offered buyouts to 2,500 employees, or one-third of its staff. The company is now much small than it once was, and now its logo is smaller, too.

The company hired big ad and research firms Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group's Wolff Olins agency to figure out what people thought of AOL and to craft a new logo. You can see some examples of how the logo will be used by clicking here. Here's an animation of the new logos.

What they came up with was a variation on the historic AOL all-caps logo, moving to an up-and-downstyle Aol., with a dot at the end, presumably in case people didn't know Aol. is an Internet company.

“Historically brand identity has been monolithic and controlling, little more than stamping a company name on a product," Karl Heiselman, chief executive of Wolff Olins, said in a statement. "AOL is a 21st century media company, with an ambitious vision for the future and new focus on creativity and expression, this required the new brand identity to be open and generous, to invite conversation and collaboration, and to feel credible, but also aspirational."

Possibly a better-known AOL logo has been the yellow running man, which you can see by clicking here. (And also here, in a sort of unsettling way.)

Then-AOL put its running man to work in a series of amusing television ads in 2003, as the company was trying to switch its dial-up customers to high-speed Internet. The ads merged live-action with animation, putting the running man on a treadmill, for instance, to the theme of "The Six Million Dollar Man." Another ad put the yellow guy in bed with a very satisfied-looking Sharon Stone, who cooed, "That was the most amazing experience I've ever had."

Ahem.

It's easy to scoff at a logo change for a company like AOL and make Titanic/deck-chair jokes, but logos and branding are an important part of a company's turnaround. AOL is quietly becoming a content powerhouse, with its Sphere newsroom and sports Fanhouse sites.

Now, the company needs earnings, which will be harder to come by. Third-quarter revenue and earnings at AOL continued to fall, with operating income down 50 percent compared to the third quarter of 2008, according to the company's report earlier this month.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  November 23, 2009; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: AOL, Jonathan Miller, Randy Falco, Sharon Stone, Tim Armstrong, Time Warner  
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Comments

I miss the good 'ol AOL days of them sending 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 in the mail...hee hee.

It'll be pretty interesting to see how they reinvent themselves with the Googles and Yahoos of the net world around to banter them around a bit.

Send me another disc for old times sakes, will ya guys? =]

Posted by: cbmuzik | November 23, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I still remember that news conference when they announced the merger. The upstart youngster Steve Case of AOL was all smiles, and the older, been around the block, Jerry Levin of Time-Warner was trying to look as if he was excited.

Posted by: Three3 | November 23, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

To me it was, is and always will be A-Hole-el.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | November 23, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

It's better than Xe.

Posted by: ksu499 | November 23, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"American Online" made sense; the company was putting the average American on-line, whatever magic "on-line" was, and you could somehow do what was then more magic than simply taken for granted.
"AOL" made sense in the same manner that GM was used to represent General Motors; it's was a shortening of the brand name and clearly understood.

However, "Aol" is much more "ay-ole" than it is anything else. Better, in my opinion, to go back to "America Online" and create advertising and promotion from a known, if not widely known, product. Granted, the company and the programs may be downsizing, but that doesn't mean you need to downsize the name of the company. Sell it to America; sell it as keeping America on-line; sell it as America's doorway or gateway to the wonders of the on-line world.

And no; I'm not naive; I just hate to see the company that brought me to the internet, to the world wide web, to the information highway disappear if it doesn't have to.

dungarees@gmail.com

Posted by: Dungarees | November 23, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with Dungrees@gmail.com on this!

AOL was berry, berry good to me! and now they want to change it because they're moving in the different direction? Not good!

I say, put those capital letters back and march the old AOL to the front and start doing a buck & a wing . . . but this time with some music!

Posted by: Javine | November 23, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

I still use AOL as my dialup backup in case DSL takes a vacation or someone cuts the wires to AT&T while digging up the sewers!
LOL!

Posted by: Javine | November 23, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Hundreds of thousands if not several million paying AOL subscibers were given the boot for posting politically incorrect thoughts in AOL chatrooms or comment sections. ANY anti-Democrat thought speech was reported and after 2 'violations' you were toast.
Then the AOL bean counters said "Where did the money go?"

Posted by: Etek | November 23, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

"

Hundreds of thousands if not several million paying AOL subscibers were given the boot for posting politically incorrect thoughts in AOL chatrooms or comment sections. ANY anti-Democrat thought speech was reported and after 2 'violations' you were toast.
Then the AOL bean counters said "Where did the money go?"

Posted by: Etek | November 23, 2009 7:23 PM "

You have GOT to be kidding. Every single article on AOL's website is full of comments from knuckle-dragging, racist, homophobic, misogynistic fundie whackjobs.

Posted by: solsticebelle | November 23, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I like AOL a lot, and I'm happy enough to see them get free of Time Warner. That was a bad merger because Time Warner isn't capable of working with internet companies very well.

I wish they'd spun off RR & AOL as a combined cut-out it'd have been more practical to do that, and more useful for both of those subsidiaries.

In any case, I think Aol. has a shot at rebuilding now they didn't have before.

Personally, I'd like to see them dredge their CD carpeting ISP strategies out of storage and start applying them to use in working on rural Internet connectivity. Since there's sources of revenue for this type of activity, they're better poised with what historic knowledge they have to take on that market and make a profit at it than a lot of other companies are.

They need to get to be famous for hiring people again too. That would be a marker of success.

Posted by: Nymous | November 23, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

A-ol, sounds too much like A-Hole....

AOL i think may be far too far down the
toilet for any save.

Pity, when they had tens of millions of users they could have beat Google to the punch with thin client Aol-PC's running a linux kernel and the AOL client as well as providing a word processor and a spreadsheet. Had AOL invested into making openoffice a real product distributed free, they could have beaten microsoft and been entrenched with paying users before google got rolling.


Posted by: patb | November 23, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

In spite of the fact of the biggest corporate merger failure in history and all the other stupid marketing issues, etc. "AOL Online" was the 1st major portal for the mass audience to the Internet/Web. The "You've Got Mail" was a punchline and a movie of the same name, starring Tom Hanks. Point? Innovate or Die.

Posted by: dennisl591 | November 25, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

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