AOL Makes Big Changes, Gaining Properties, Losing Staff

By Steve Anderson February 28, 2013

AOL, as a company, has been seeing a lot of changes in recent days. Not only did it manage to get its hands on gdgt, a purveyor of product information, but it is also putting some extra punch in its Fishbowl Labs incubator with Mhelpdesk.

But gains weren't the only thing on AOL's plate, as AOL's chief operating officer, Artie Minson, was found planning to leave AOL by the end of the year.

The exact terms of the deal under which AOL acquired gdgt were undisclosed – some reports suggest the deal is in the high seven figures – but given that gdgt and Engadget not only share something of a common ancestry, but work together on several different points (gdgt provides structured product data to Engadget) the move makes a note of sense.

The product database service at gdgt, as well as its video review aggregation services, makes it the kind of service that would put extra value in the rest of the AOL Tech operation, like TUAW, Techcrunch, Huffpost Tech and several others.

Operationally, gdgt will be teaming up with Engadget on several events throughout the year, like the CES event and Engadget's annual Expand conference in March. This move will also reportedly allow Engadget to hit more events in cities like Austin and San Diego, providing information about new products as they emerge and expanding the reach of gdgt's overall database functions.

But it wasn't just new gadget mags that got AOL moving; more recently, it also brought in Mhelpdesk to join in its Fishbowl Labs incubator projects on the AOL campus. Mhelpdesk recently racked up over 5,000 customers to its name, and made the number-six slot on Capterra's top 20 field service companies, making it a major force in terms of field service management.

But with AOL's Fishbowl Labs, things are only likely to improve, as the company uses AOL's resources to add new features, and focus on building its customer lists.

As for Minson, the reasons behind his departure are somewhat unusual. Sources within AOL cite a restructuring of AOL's top management, in which Susan Lyne was brought in to manage AOL's new content properties. But Minson and CEO Tim Armstrong had been previously seen disagreeing over how to run the Huffington Post and the growing number of media companies in AOL's purview.

The combination of the various companies should add a little extra power in terms of coverage, and getting out to more events certainly shouldn't hurt. Initial reaction from the readership so far ranges from the skeptical to the cautiously optimistic, so with the full integration of gdgt, it should put AOL on a better footing to compete with many of the other content sources like Vox Media's array of sites.

Additionally, AOL having a hand in putting a boost under a major field service company like Mhelpdesk should offer AOL some extra credence in the field.

The exact impact of AOL's move to buy gdgt will take some time to properly shake out, but it's a move that should help AOL in the long run. So, too, should be the move to put some extra juice behind Mhelpdesk. AOL's future as a company may not have been looking bright in recent days, especially after the falling out with Time-Warner. But a renewed focus on media issues – as expressed by bringing in a content veteran like Lyne instead of Minson – offering a lot of content, and putting some extra boost into current enterprises, may be just the help AOL needed in the long term.

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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