According to The Wall Street Journal, AOL is betting it can reinvent itself with a numbers-driven approach to developing content, based on what Web-search and other data tell it is most likely to attract audiences and sponsors.
AOL says its technology streamlines the process of assigning, editing and publishing stories by using a series of algorithms to predict the types of stories, videos and photos that will be most popular with consumers and marketers at any given time.
Naturally, this is all powered by powerful behavior tracking technology. The kind Facebook, among others, uses.
AOL also plans to give advertisers a bigger say in content development. The company says that its ad model will allow advertisers to be affiliated with the content but not control what is written or created.
Rick Edmonds, a media-business analyst at the Poynter Institute for journalism, says that it is “borderline” whether AOL’s model for content creation could be called journalism. “Independence is a critical element of serious journalism by definition. This isn’t,” he says.
The problem with the fourth estate’s sanctity plea is its irrelevance to the bottom line. AOL, and every other major media entity, is in business to gain traction with readers that can then be delivered to advertisers. Maybe their data-driven, advertiser-friendly model works, maybe it doesn’t. As I like to say, may the team with the best content win.