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The Verizon-AOL deal: Is this ‘the year everything happens’?

AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, center, applauds during opening bell ceremonies of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo. Verizon on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 announced it is buying AOL for about $4.4 billion, advancing the telecom's push in both mobile and advertising fields. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, center, applauds during opening bell ceremonies of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo. Verizon on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 announced it is buying AOL for about $4.4 billion, advancing the telecom’s push in both mobile and advertising fields. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

A few days before Verizon agreed to buy AOL for $4.4 billion, AOL boss Tim Armstrong was opining about the future to a packed if sterile convention ballroom in Chicago.

“There will be a set of companies that form the cable landscape,” he told the annual cable TV convention, “and a number of companies that do internet and TV. And some companies will be left behind. Internet companies without proper scale. And traditional companies who don’t get the point.”

“This is absolutely a time period like the beginning of the web,” he said during an on-stage interview with journalist-entrepreneur Kara Swisher. Read more

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Career Beat: Annie-Rose Strasser named deputy managing editor at BuzzFeed News

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Annie-Rose Strasser will be deputy managing editor at BuzzFeed News. She is deputy managing editor at ThinkProgress (@ARStrasser)
  • Christy Moreno is now news director at KUSA in Denver. Previously, she was news director for WBIR in Knoxville. Patti Dennis is vice president of talent development at Gannett. Previously, she was news director at KUSA in Denver. Talia Naquin is now dayside executive producer for WSMV in Nashville, Tennessee. She has been a news director in Wichita Falls, Texas. (Rick Gevers)
  • Allie Kline is now chief marketing officer at AOL. Previously, she was chief managing officer of platforms there. (AOL)
  • Fergus Bell will be head of newsroom partnerships and innovation at Social Asset Management Inc.
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Government says Sotloff video is real

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Steven Sotloff video is real: National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says a video showing the journalist’s execution by Islamic State “is authentic.” (AP) | Sotloff “began many of his articles with personal anecdotes and sprinkled his reporting with mundane details like the precise price of bread, reminding readers that faceless forces like Syria’s civil war and Egypt’s military coup were fundamentally altering the lives of real people, in divergent but no less devastating ways.” (The Atlantic) | President Obama: “His killers try to claim that they defend the oppressed but it was Steven who traveled across the Middle East risking his life to tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding justice and dignity.” (Politico) | Time Editor Nancy Gibbs: Sotloff “gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world.” (Time) | “It appears from chatter on ISIS forums that the initial video release was an unintentional leak from within ISIS circles” (Vocativ)
  2. Fred Ryan meets Washington Post newsroom: The news organization’s new publisher declined to say how he got the job, said “a key for Wapo is winning the morning.” (@erikwemple) | Washington Post reporters figure out how he got the job: He told Jean Case he was interested, and she introduced him to Post owner Jeff Bezos.
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Career Beat: Vox Media gets new marketing vice president

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Jonathan Hunt will be global vice president for marketing and partnerships at Vox Media. Previously, he was global marketing director at Vice. (Adweek)
  • Kimberly Pierceall is now a gambling industry reporter for the Associated Press. Previously, she covered Irvine, California for the Orange County Register. (AP)
  • Ellen Crooke is now vice president of news for Gannett Broadcasting. Previously, she was news director for WXIA in Atlanta, Georgia. (Gannett)
  • Robert Christie is now vice president of international media for Alibaba Group. Previously, he was senior vice president of corporate communications for The New York Times Company. (Capital)
  • Kim Segal will be an attorney for Broward County. Previously, she was a supervising producer at CNN.
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How AOL maintains editorial independence in Ford-sponsored ‘This Built America’ series

When an AOL team with an editorial vision joined a video production team with an artistic vision to launch an ambitious 50-week series about people and companies rebuilding America, it was clear they needed a brand to help fund it.

They found a top-dollar one in Ford Trucks.

But despite the sponsorship (worth just under $10 million, Ad Age reports), “This Built America” is journalism through and through, said AOL’s Fara Warner, the project’s editorial director. Read more

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Tim Armstrong: AOL will keep ‘meaningful minority interest’ in Patch

AOL | Business Insider

AOL announced Wednesday that it has given up its majority ownership of Patch. In an email to staffers, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said the new majority owner, a company called Hale Global, will be responsible for Patch’s “pivot.”

That means the network of sites “isn’t AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s problem anymore,” Nicholas Carlson writes.

Patch employees will have a call this afternoon to discuss what this all means. In an email to Patch folks, Patch CEO Bud Rosenthal said anyone who has questions should “please feel free to speak to your HR representative anytime.”
Full memo: Read more

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David Carr reported Sunday in The New York Times on the future of Patch and the vision that’s kept it alive so far. In a phone interview with Carr, Tim Armstrong, AOL’s CEO, continued defending the project he first envisioned.

At the end of the day, could Patch have been run better? We don’t know,” he said. “We were doing this while we navigated turning around the rest of the company. Patch was one of the big bets that we made, among others, and I still believe local will be a big opportunity whether it is Patch or someone else.”

David Carr

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Ad revenue rises at AOL, but Patch weighs on results

Reuters | Forbes

AOL announced its third quarter earnings Tuesday. Ad revenue grew at the company, but expenses related to Patch weighed on results.

Ad revenue grew 14 percent over the third quarter of 2012 and, as Reuters reports, “the digital media and entertainment company said on Tuesday it took a pre-tax restructuring charge of $19 million and an impairment charge of $25 million, both related to Patch, sending operating income down 61 percent to $16.7 million.”

“AOL’s Q3 results are another step forward in our long-term plan,” Tim Armstrong, AOL Chairman and CEO, said in a news release. “The Q3 results highlight the strength of AOL’s strategy and the consistent execution of our team in delivering great consumer experiences and successful customer results.”

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Layoffs hit Patch

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told Patch employees in a conference call Friday the widely reported layoffs at the site will occur today. 60 percent of Patch sites had “real traction,” he said, 20 percent had “significant traction” and another 20 percent would be sold or consolidated. Armstrong said he’d had meetings with major media companies about the Patch sites. Employees were told to await an email, apparently with details about another conference call.

I’ve also heard that some Patchers were fired in a separate phone call at 11 a.m. and told their last paycheck would be Aug. 23. Darrell Etherington says he’s confirmed that with another source. Several people who are staying have told me Patch bigs told them they were on the “go forward team.”

Peter Kafka’s sources say “AOL will immediately let go of about 350 Patch employees. Read more

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Tim Armstrong apologizes for publicly firing Abel Lenz

“I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me,” AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong writes in a note to staffers. He says he apologized to Lenz, who he says he’d spoken to previously about not recording confidential meetings.

The email’s subject line is “Accountability starts with me.”

Jim Romenesko published audio of the call on Saturday. Read more

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