AOL Hell


These are dark and dreary days for AOL Time Warner. The stock price, currently hovering above $12 dollars a share, is down from $60 two years ago and may not yet have found bottom. The ungainly company has management woes that are quickly approaching the WorldCom threshold, including revolving door executives and its own mini-accounting scandal.

When the two components of this still-disjointed "media empire" merged two years ago, the move was alternatively damned as an example of the creeping monopolization of the media the lefty American Prospect actually ran a symposium entitled "Is the AOL-Time Warner merger safe for democracy?" and praised as the beginning of the so-called New Economy's takeover of the decaying old one.

It may have simply been a bad idea. Analyst and First Family member in good standing John Ellis argued at the time that the two companies would prove incompatible. Ellis asked what this deal added to customer value and concluded that "AOL's senior managers are no longer focused on the needs of AOL customers and instead have decided to focus on themselves."

His diagnosis seems to have proven accurate. Over the last few years, customer service has decayed and the company has responded to falling revenues by shelling paying customers including yours truly with annoying pop up ads. All things considered, at $12 a share, the megafirm's stock may still be overpriced.