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Entries in AOL (3)

Wednesday
Aug142013

AOL CEO Apologizes for Firing Employee During Conference Call

Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for AOL(NEW YORK) -- AOL CEO Tim Armstrong issued an awkward apology in a memo to his staff after firing an employee for taking a photo of him during a tension-filled conference call last week.

On Friday, Armstrong fired Abel Lenz, a creative director for AOL’s Patch local-news business, in front other co-workers and 1,000 employees listening in on a conference call to discuss changes at the unit, including layoffs and site closings.

In a memo to employees on Tuesday, obtained by Bloomberg News, Armstrong wrote, “I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously.”

Armstrong called last week’s meeting to discuss cutbacks at Patch, a network of hyper-local news sites owned by AOL.  Armstrong can be heard saying during the meeting, “Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!” He then paused before continuing the meeting.

In the memo, Armstrong wrote that this wasn’t first time the staffer had “recorded” a confidential meeting.

”As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL,” Armstrong said in the memo. “Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.”

AOL did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lenz could not be reached for comment. The memo did not mention Lenz’ status at the company.

An audio recording of the public firing leaked and was posted on media blogger Jim Romenesko’s website.

Lenz tweeted on Friday, “No comment. (at Old Town Bar)” with a photo of the bar.

AOL bought Patch in 2009 when it covered five towns in the Northeast. It has since expanded to covering over 1,000 communities, according to Patch.com. But the service has never made a profit and the latest plans call for closing or finding partners for hundreds of the sites that have no prospect of covering costs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct182012

You've Got Alto: AOL Introduces New Spin on Email

Aol(NEW YORK) -- For most people on the Internet, it has been ages since they've heard the chime "You've got mail!" or associated AOL with modern-day email.  While it was reported last year that a large percentage of AOL's profits still come from people who use AOL.com's webmail service, many have moved to newer webmail options like Gmail, Yahoo or Apple's iCloud.

But now, AOL is hoping those who haven't used AOL email in a decade will start again on Thursday.  The company has unveiled its newest mail service: Alto.

"AOL has been in the business a long time and has a lot of insights to do something more than what the other services are doing now," David Temkin, Senior Vice President of Mail for AOL, told ABC News in an interview.

Alto isn't a new site to get a new email address; it's a site, Temkin says, that will help solve the "issues we all have with email now."

With Alto, which will be located at altomail.com, you can log in to your current Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud or AOL email address and it will function like a webmail app, just like the one on your smartphone.  Once you log in to your existing account, your email from it is ingested by Alto.  There's not even an option to sign up for an @alto.com address.

But why use Alto over Gmail.com or Yahoo.com?  AOL is hoping you'll switch over for a slew of new features it has built to better organize your inbox.  

The Alto interface is clean and shows two panes.  On the left is your inbox and on the right are what AOL calls stacks.  In those stacks, you can group emails according to their content.  There's even an automatic stack for your "attachments," so you can view all your photos or documents in one area without having to dig through your inbox.

The stacks feature is similar to what Microsoft introduced a few months ago with Outlook.com; both services offer to organize your inbox automatically so you don't have to do the constant deleting and sifting that takes so much time for email users.

But the company says there will be more than stacks to set Alto apart.  AOL has improved the speed of its inbox search; it almost instantaneously brings up messages with the word or a contact you might be looking for.  Additionally, it has integrated social features, so when you look up a contact you can see their Twitter and Facebook information.

But for all the really attractive and useful features, there are some key ones missing in Alto.  There are no threaded messages -- a feature that groups your messages by conversation in your inbox.  (You can see a threaded view of a particular email chain once you open the email, but it doesn't gather them together in the inbox.)  That's one of the features that makes using Gmail.com and the others so appealing for many.

There's also no Gmail chat function integrated, at least not in the "limited preview" beta period.  AOL says those features are coming and that the team wanted to focus on the "core email experience" for now.

Of course, like the other webmail services, AOL plans to make some money off of the service.  While there will be a base free offering, AOL says it is exploring a paid service option for aggregation of more than two accounts and other premium services.  It says there won't be typical display advertising as there is in Gmail, but it might place advertisements at some point around your retail stack.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May292012

Kid Who Squatted at AOL for 2 Months Aims for $500K for Startup

ClassConnect.com(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Eric Simons, 20, had all the attributes of a passionate entrepreneur: hungry, visionary, resourceful and willing to do whatever it took to get his startup off the ground, including squatting at AOL’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

But after surviving on office catering leftovers and snacks for two months, the entrepreneur has now put his startup in motion with $50,000 from investors.

Simons moved to Silicon Valley from Illinois last year when he was 19 years old.  Accepted into the inaugural class of the Silicon Valley startup incubator, Imagine K12, he decided to pursue the dream of his startup instead of college.

He and his friends were given $20,000 for ClassConnect, which allows teachers to create and share lesson plans with students and other teachers. After the four-month program ended, his friends quit to attend college and the money ran out too. But Simons, with a working AOL badge, continued coming to the office, as first reported by CNET.

Simons showered in AOL’s gym, slept on company couches, and ate snacks and leftovers from the frequent catering that served the employees and other entrepreneurs working at the office. Because AOL allows other entrepreneurs and programs to work in its office, Simons was able to stay through October and November last year.

On the hunt for investors, he said moving back to Chicago would have meant shutting down ClassConnect.

“What we’re working on is extremely important and will have an important impact on educational system,” he said.  ”I couldn’t bring myself to pack up, which is how I got clever and figured out how I could stay out there.”

His parents and family knew he was squatting, but almost everyone he knew applauded his dedication, including his parents.

“They knew of it. It killed them to see me living on couches and eating scraps but at the end of the day they were pretty proud of me for doing that,” Simons said.

ClassConnect’s $50,000 seed investment, half of which is closing Tuesday from Ulu Ventures, may be giving Simons’ parents another reason to be proud. Simons said he received the first of the investment two weeks ago. The first thing Simons did with the money was rent a three-bedroom home in Palo Alto where he and his two partners are working. He plans to rent out the master bedroom for extra cash.

Clint Korver of Ulu said the company is helping Eric raise the remaining $500,000 from other investors.

Brett Kopf, 25, and his brother, David, were part of Simons’ Imagine K12 class, and housed Eric on their couch when he wasn’t living at AOL. The Kopf brothers launched Remind101, a service which helps teachers text homework reminders and other messages to students and parents, eight months ago.

“He’s the most energetic kid I know,” Brett said of Simons. “For a [then] 19-year old it’s just very impressive, for his tenacity, to do that.”

David Speiser, spokesman for AOL, said he the company does not encourage employees or intruders to sleep in its office, but he does applaud the spirit of Simons’ dedication.

“We did not know that Eric was sleeping in the offices and that’s obviously not something we can or want to encourage. We have to maintain a professional workplace,” Speiser said. “At the same time, as a company we’re working very hard to encourage employees to work very hard and create an environment to promote Silicon Valley dream of entrepreneurship and dedication to an idea.”

“It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn’t expect it to work so well,” David Temkin, SVP of mail and mobile for AOL, said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio