New York -- In an attempt to keep pace with escalating competition in the search and advertising business, AOL is trying to claim its glory again after breaking away from Time Warner. The struggling Internet pioneer has rolled out a newly redesigned homepage with more of a focus on video and local content.
The latest restyling includes local news headlines for the first time and moves video closer to the top of the homepage. This may be the company's biggest news since ejecting out of its disastrous merger with Time Warner helps to illustrate the company's problems.
Now almost a year after the spin off, the service has officially re-launched, focusing on day-part programming and video content. The new home page design, as outlined in a press release, is not right away earth-shattering. However, the company claims that the revamped service is based on visitor interests and user habits including making multiple visits "throughout the day with an increasing affinity for photos, video, commerce and causes."
Monday AOL also said that visitors will enjoy a heaping of news in three chunks mimicking the big TV networks, day part-programming, which includes different content at different times of the day. Day-part programming covers major topics:
- Morning: The most essential stories of the day, followed by pop culture updates and news-you-can-use.
- Daytime: Breaking news updates, entertainment, latest fashion trends, intriguing personalities and tips for managing home, career, budget and family.
- Evening: A wind up of the day's news, with additional significant stories on specific days including Makeover Mondays, Foodie Tuesdays and Technology Wednesdays.
"The highly-visual new AOL.com puts video front and center," the company said. "AOL has partnered with a group of leading creators of high quality made-for-Web video whose content will be featured regularly on AOL.com and throughout all areas of AOL's network along with video content created in AOL's own state of the art HD studios in New York and Los Angeles."
Also, the new AOL promises to deliver content to users based on their interests overtime. The homepage allows users to share content on social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.
As you can observe from the two screenshots below--with the new design layered above the old one, still available via a "Back to Classic" link at the bottom of the page--the changes mainly reorganize existing content in the first screenful. The directory of links at the left and the video module take up less space, allowing for an extra column of content and the trending-topics list that has become a standard ingredient at numerous sites (this one included).
New AOL Homepage -- Click to enlarge...
Old AOL Homepage -- Click to enlarge...
According to the company, among the many newly released AOL attributes that will include "You've Got," a platform where "famous and not-so-famous" will be allotted 45 seconds to send a message to Americans. The new Light Box will be the service's new video player whereas AOL Daybreak will provide a morning news wrap-up. Viral videos will hold a two-minute focus each day via The ONE, and the Daily Buzz will be based on stories people are talking about and sharing. Editor's Picks, WOW! Deal of the Day and Cause Marketing were three other services mentioned by AOL in its official launch announcement.
Furthermore, visitors who scroll down can see more interesting fare, such as a module for AOL's "Life stream" social-media tool that can consolidate friends' updates at such popular (and non-AOL) sites as Facebook and Twitter. Local news also gets its own spot, provided by AOL's Patch network of neighborhood news sites in some locations.
In a telephonic conference over the weekend, Chris Grosso, AOL's home-page general manager, and Kerry Trainor, a vice president for entertainment, furnished additional information about the new design--the New York-based firm's first in almost two years. Both stressed the significance of video (though the Adobe Flash-based clips on the old and new sites do not work on an iPad or iPhone) and sounded like TV execs as they discussed how the site is "programmed by daypart," with news taking precedence in the morning and lifestyle items getting more play in afternoons.
However, AOL still offers monthly subscriptions starting at $9.99 for those accessing the Internet via a modem. The free version for Broadband users offers AOL email, online customer support and the all-in-one AOL software suite.