It’s the Bash AOL Show!

Gerald Ford was a comedian’s dream: He couldn’t walk to the presidential bathroom without face-planting.

Brian Mulroney was a caricaturist’s dream: His chin jutted out enough to sub in for the nose cone of an ICBM. (Final scene ofDr. Strangelove, anyone?)

Meanwhile, Turner CNN Time AOL Warner Brothers is a dream come true for a Kontent Kurmudgeon™. They can’t do anything right – and they do it wrong in such entertaining ways! A new faceplant every single day!

CNN: Stop making sense!

We’re still not understanding what the hell CNN is doing with its interactive division. Technically, it is being shitcanned in favour of “integrating”the “interactive” producers into the soporific news juggernaut’s main operations. (Not the “real” operations, shurely?!) This article isn’t making any sense at all.

The division not only is being gutted by staff cuts of roughly 25 percent, it is essentially being dismantled as control of the Websites moves to the television networks.... Instead, each network general manager will be responsible for both broadcast and interactive programming, with a senior executive in charge of interactive matters for each network.

So mid-level managers have to handle everything, but the “senior executive” can ignore half of it.

“You will always have television producers producing television and interactive producers producing interactive.It’s the way in which they work together in managing the news and info and stories that come in from the field that’s the rmal true test.” [...] But [some professor] worries that the moves, especially the loss of an interactive evangelist..., could end up compromising interactive journalism at CNN.“It’s still so new that many of the traditional people don’t have appreciation or understanding of what can be done in an interactive environment. It can become an afterthought.”

An insider tells us that TV people do TV and Web people do Web, while an outside critic complains that the TV people don’t know what the Web can do. Isn’t the latter a consequence of the former?

Specialization is preferable, as we described before. The Web staff won’t need to learn anything about TV, because they grew up with it. If, however, CNN deploys combined TV/Web/radio/print reporting teams on major events, then by simple virtue of driving there in the same vans everyone’s going to pick up the feel of the other media.

On the whole, maintaining separate “interactive” divisions makes little sense in a unified conglomerate like AOL Time Warner CNN Turner ICQ. Maintaining separate functions while people work in close proximity makes tons of sense.

The Georgians like to think they aren’t as airy-fairy as the media elites on the Coasts. OK, prove it. Act like a family with a mixture of kids born to the parents and adopted. You may not look alike, but you all sign your homework assignments with the same last name.

AOLTV, an eWorld manqué

We just love to bash AOLTV. By all reports – all reports – the TV/Web set-top box is substantially worse than anyone could have dared expect.

And we love that about it! Anything that hastens the demise ofconvergenceis OK in our books.

The latest nails in the coffin? Edmund Sanders:

I found AOLTV to be a pretty cold and lonely place. Despite numerous attempts to make human contact, I never found anyone else out there. Granted, the service, which launched last summer, is still fairly new. And AOL won’t say how many people have signed up, so the number must be embarrassingly small....

An online poll asks, “Who’s the best male actor?” Just how lonely is AOLTV? Including my own vote,there were a whopping two responses to that question. Frequently,however, these channels didn’t live up to their own hype.“Is your favorite musician on TV? AOLTV Music can tell you.” But apparently, it couldn’t, because nothing happened when I clicked the box several times. “Will there be any surprises at playoff time? Join this chat.” I was transported to a chat room – all by myself.

Anyone remember eWorld, the AOL manquéthat barely anyone subscribed to? (We did. “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always get the hell out of eWorld.”) AOLTV is the new eWorld.

Technology buffs, who hate everything AOL does anyway, predictably will be disappointed by the lack of advanced options and the sluggishness with which the interface moves. [...] Once set up,AOLTV takes control of the set. A translucent AOL logo appears at the top of the screen at all times. More disturbingly, the system reorganizes all the TV channels. Rather than numerical order, channels are arranged by topic, such as movies, networks, kids and family, sports, shopping and news.[... E]ach time users surf past one of the AOL program-guide channels (and they are hard to avoid), the TV screen shrinks to make room for updated data and the whole system gets hangup for 10 to 20 seconds. That’s an eternity to a channel surfer just quickly flipping through to see what’son. Invariably, I kept clicking the channel button impatiently during the delay, which only resulted in a subsequent explosion of channels zipping by as AOLTV tried to catch up. Consumers may be willing to wait for a Web page to load. But waiting for a TV channel to change is excruciating.

And, as we documented previously,when you dial up one channel, AOLTV may give you another – a channel Turner AOL CNN Warner owns.

CompuServe Time CNN Warner AOL Brothers simply cannot make up its mind whether divergent media genres should be unified or separated. The party line is “unified,” but troubling murmurs of dissent keep burrowing to the surface (as we see in the CNN example), while AOLTV manages to make AOL and TV notably worse than they already are.

Netscape, a Pathfinder manqué

We defend Pathfinder, the failed early Time Warner online portal. Why? Shovelware has its place.

If you use the term archive rather thanshovelware, doesn’t it make ever so much more sense? It’s so much sexier and more monetizable, isn’t it?

Admittedly, a “repurposed” magazine article will lack all the nice links and also all the telegraphic writing style the caterwauling critics of online reading demand, but sometimes all you’re actually looking for is a magazine article. Is that so wrong?

Anyway, ICQ Turner AOL Warner Time plans to breathe life into one of its many neglected divisions, Netscape, by smothering it with other neglected divisions. New Turner Line AOL Time CompuServe whereby recapitulates the Queer, Spazz & Retard Theory of High-School Athletics: Pile the losers together. (Who are the last kids to get picked for the team? It isn’t just the quiet artsy boys or the kids with LD or the Gerald Fords. It’s a tie for last place!)

Allegedly: “will be a hub for Time Warner content.It’s been touted around internally,” said a source in Netscape who requested anonymity. Netscape executives are also considering renaming the Web site once it inherits AOL Time Warner’s content, but they have not decided on a new name,according to one source close to the company. Just a few months ago, Netscape dropped “Netcenter” from its name; now it simply calls the Web site “Netscape.”

Now, back in the day, Pathfinder worked because it was born into the world to be nothing but a content portal. Netscape has been adrift for years – human years, Internet years, dog years.You can download a browser (if you can find the links) and check your snatchmail and read syndicated Reuters headlines. Of course,the only reason you’d visit Netscape in the first place is if your browser takes you there automatically as its default homepage. It has all the allure of cauliflower soup.

If CNN AOL funnels Time SI People Fortune content into Netscape,the only readers who will understand what the hell is going on are those in the media industry themselves. (Incestuous!) Real peopledon’t know that Time and AOL are the same company. It will never occur to them that the new Netscape is the source for combined content. Why? Peopledon’t want combined content. (In a searchable archive, yes.As a destination, no.)

And that will still be the case if the site’s name changesfrom Netscape. (Changed to what? Pathfinder? Nissan would object.)If the name changes, where do you go to download Netscape 6?

Are you as confused as we are? What is going on here?

We’d do it this way:

We give away gold here. We give away gold.

Posted on 2001-01-12