Cyndi Stivers: AOL home page ‘still huge, huge, huge’

AOL announced last week that Columbia Journalism Review Editor-in-Chief Cyndi Stivers had accepted the editorship of AOL.com, the company’s storied Web gateway. Wait a second, I asked the journalism-industry chronicler in a phone call Monday, aren’t news consumers moving away from home pages?

“Not that one!” Stivers said of AOL.com. “That’s huge. It’s still huge, huge, huge.” Under her watch, she said, AOL.com will help readers: “Save them time, make them smarter, entertain them a little.” Media criticism, she said, would probably not be a huge part of the home page’s offerings.

AOL readers hungry for meta-reporting can still visit CJR’s snazzy home page, whose flexibility Stivers cited as one of the accomplishments of her tenure.

“That’s the kind of stuff that I wanted to do and that I’ll do at AOL also,” she said. “Despite what everybody says, what our new cover story says about kids … [readers] actually need help with curation.” AOL has about 15 editors working on the site, she said. AOL spokesperson Doug Serton declined to discuss staffing levels but said “Cyndi will lead our AOL.com editorial team as well as partner with editors and programmers from brands across the AOL network.”

AOL.com had more than 26 million unique visitors in April, Serton said, citing ComScore data. In an article about Stivers’ move, Lucia Moses said AOL “ranks 15 in U.S. traffic behind sites like Google, Facebook and Amazon, per Alexa rankings (although comScore had AOL at No. 6 in March).”

Stivers said her announcement “didn’t have any connection” to layoffs that took place at CJR last Friday.

In an email to Poynter, outgoing Columbia Journalism School dean Nicholas Lemann said the publication will hire a new top editor. “Given that we have a new dean starting in only two months, the likeliest short term outcome is that I will hire an interim editor, and then Steve Coll will hire a permanent editor when he arrives,” Lemann wrote. Coll will replace Lemann as dean in July.

Stivers’ last day at CJR is May 24. She begins at AOL on June 3.

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