Aol Case Study

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Category: Business and Industry

Date Submitted: 09/29/2013 12:12 PM

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About American Online

America Online (AOL) is a global Web services company that operates some of the most popular Web destinations, offers a comprehensive suite of free software and services runs one of the largest Internet access businesses in the U.S., and provides a full set of advertising solutions. A majority-owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. AOL LLC and its subsidiaries have operations in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia.

What factors help explain AOL's ascendency to the largest online subscription service, and it's subsequent decline?

What is the strategy behind AOL's merger with Time Warner? Why did it fail?

What problems are at the core of AOL's recent troubles? How can the company turn around and set itself on a path to success?

Prior to 1995, AOL was very successful in the commercial online industry relative to its competitors CompuServe and Prodigy primarily because of its pricing rate structure which was the easiest for customers to understand and plan for ahead of time. CompuServe and Prodigy offered the same pricing as AOL for its standard service, but, charged additional fees for premium services and downloading which made it more difficult for customers to anticipate their monthly spending.

The key changes taking place in the online industry in 1995 are the introduction of the Microsoft network and the coming of use of the Internet World Wide Web which offered alternative channels to content providers that provided more control over their offerings and potentially higher revenues. Microsoft Network took only a 30% commission fee (versus 80% taken by AOL from its content providers’ revenues) from its content providers and offered providers the option of choosing any format and font to display their content (versus the standard screen displays offered by AOL and its rivals). Also, the per-hour pricing policy offered by Microsoft was superior to AOL’s. With the development underway of a way to provide on-line currency collection, the...