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AOL Europe - Alles On Line?

Sandra Goetz, 18. April 2008

Fast hat man sie in Deutschland nicht mehr auf dem Flachbildschirm gehabt ... Die Pioniere des Internetzugangs namens AOL. Doch seitdem Dana Dunne AOL CEO Europe ist, seit Februar 2007, scheint sich etwas zu tun. Der agile New Yorker mit irischen Wurzeln ist, nachdem er AOL Europe kräftig umstrukturiert hat, entschlossen, an die Konkurrenz verlorenes Terrain zurückzuerobern. Da tut es auch nichts zur Sache, dass Deutschland Geschäftsführer Torsten Ahlers das Unternehmen gut gelaunt verlässt und sich neuen Herausforderungen stellen will, nachdem er sich eine Auszeit von drei Monaten gegönnt hat.

Dabei ist es weder mir noch Kolleginnen anderer Medien trotz weiblicher Raffinesse gelungen, Ahlers zu entlocken, wo es denn hingehen soll. Wir haben uns während des Mediendinners, zu dem AOL ins Mövenpick Hotel im Wasserturm, Hamburg, geladen hatte, alle Mühe gegeben, das herausrauszufinden. Auch Pressechef Johannes Winter war keine information zu entlocken. Alle hielten dicht, so auch COO Michael Gutsmann, der interimsweise die Deutschlandgeschäftsführung übernimmt. Dafür gab es neben einem kulinarisch und auch ansonsten anregenden Abend ein Interview mit AOL Europa Chef Dana Dunne im Originalton.

Adzine: AOL in Europe stood for a simple way to access the Internet like "we'll show you the way onto the internet". Today Internet users are grown up and AOL is no longer an ISP. What is the role of AOL today?

Dunne: AOL has moved from a subscription-based ISP to an advertising-supported web services company, offering digital communications, social networking forums and content to consumers. Our business focuses on growing and engaging an online audience and monetising that audience through online advertising.

Adzine: What are the core areas you are focused on?

Dunne: First to build an advertising network, termed Platform-A, which offers advertisers access across AOL’s network of owned, operated and third party sites. The second is publishing, which provides the products, content and platforms needed to maintain a useful and entertaining portal. And third, digital communication, providing continual access to emails and AIM, keeping users in touch and generating ad spend from page views.

Adzine: In times where people build their own start pages by picking the relevant content for themselves, are there some hard times coming up for portals like AOL Europe?

Dunne: Our customers are the most engaged of any in the marketplace. Independent research shows they spend an average of 140 minutes every month on AOL - more than double the closest of our competitors - because they love our content and the services we offer. We have expanded considerably in Europe in the last twelve months, launching eight new portals - in Austria, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden - so we are now present in 11 European countries and have more launches worldwide in the pipeline. This growth is focused on offering engaging localised products to users, and the ability to customise what they want on their homepages is already something we offer. Having said that, in the last year, we have enhanced the consumer experience of the AOL/Alice portal in Germany in the last year by adding features like supertabs and icons for improved usability, further personalisation options and a clear layout.

Truveo for example, AOL's leading video search engine has been successfully launched in 16 markets worldwide and indexes over 150 million videos from all over the Internet, including user generated content as well as professionally produced content from Spiegel Online or Die Tagesschau. The German version of Truveo can be found at

Adzine: According to our information from, reach and traffic of have been decreasing in the first month of 2008, what is happening?

Dunne: is not a standardised and reliable instrument for measure the size of an online offer in Germany. Instead the online ad industry uses AGOF figures. The latest internet facts from AGOF show us to be the winners in terms of reach for the second time in a row. We have achieved the largest growth in percentage terms out of the top ten ad networks with 9.6 million unique users per month. The AOL pages alone reach 5.33 million unique users and are therefore Nr. 8 in the ranking. We are also no. 1 in stickiness: almost two thirds of AOL users return to our sites every week. This demonstrates the consumer satisfaction of our users.

Adzine: What content will make AOL Europe unique or at least attractive to users in the future?

Dunne: We are building on our heritage as the company that created chat and chat rooms to provide social networking products that connect communities around the world. For example, in Spain and Italy, our AOL Video product attracted 400,000 users before we publicly launched it. Our video and music player Winamp is one of the most successful and popular tools in the market with over2.6 million in Germany. We recently announced our acquisition of Bebo, one of the world’s most popular social networking sites, and, naturally, we have exciting plans for its growth across Europe and worldwide.

We also dominate the list of top blogs - we own five of the top 10 blogs in the United States for instance (comScore Media Metrix February 2008). TMZ is a gossip site and a joint venture between us and Warner Telepictures; Gadling is a travel blog, Thatsfit focuses on fitness; Engadget is a popular site for gadget addicts and Autoblog is about cars. This strategy of offering engaging content to users is absolutely something we are pursuing in Europe.

Adzine: Is third party media sales the answer to the audience problem or why is the extension of the media portfolio so vital to AOL?

Dunne: Our third-party online advertising inventory service, which we term 'ad-repping' ("Drittvermarktung"), is a crucial component of our offering. It enables external online properties to leverage our extensive sales and marketing expertise. We have a great track record worldwide in monetising premium sites and we want to extend this knowledge, ability and reputation by offering our services to other sites.

AOL's ad repping service is already widely used in the U.S. and has made significant inroads in European markets, for example in France, where eBay has chosen AOL Publicité, the ad repping department of AOL France, to market its advertising space. Moreover in Germany the AOL Digital Marketing Group offers the 7th largest ad repping network in Germany including sites such as, or Wealso recently signed a contract with the Holtzbrinck daughter

Adzine: Even Brand-Advertisers are starting to think in terms of "cost per" categories and are expecting measurable results from Online Advertising. Is that a fair attitude in your opinion or do they expect simply too much because branding does not work that way?

Dunne: You are right to highlight the growing importance of analytics. The growth and increasing sophistication of the new band of global advertising networks, such as our own Platform-A, will heighten media owners' awareness of analytics. The incentive for media owners to join these networks is the guarantee of improvements in the effectiveness of their advertising. As networks increase their stable of sites so the amount of data they collect about search and browsing habits of users is increasing exponentially.

A solution is national and local targeting by vertical category, site, individual page, section, topic and even keyword. Advertisers can then target by specific pages, like the front screen of, sections, like AOL News and hundreds of topics or keywords such as "stocks" or "HSV".

Adzine: Mr. Dunne, thank you very much for your time and this interview.

Über den Autor/die Autorin:

Sandra Goetz ist seit 2006 als freie Autorin für ADZINE an Bord. Ihr Fokus liegt auf Interviews zu aktuellen Innovationsthemen im digital Media und Marketing. Außerdem schaut sie sich bei ihren Auslandsreisen immer wieder nach spannenden Geschichten aus der globalen Marketing-Welt um, Interviews inklusive. Seit 2016 verantwortet Sandra die ADZINE Entscheider-Serie.