Patch, AOL’s hyperlocal site, laid off around 350 employees today. The eliminated positions, which represent about 40 percent of the workforce, could increase to 500 if AOL doesn’t succeed in finding partners for some of the underperforming sites, ALL Things D reported this morning. For now, that leaves 150 people in limbo.
CEO Tim Armstrong was expected to announce 500 layoffs on a conference call last Friday (instead, Mr. Armstrong publicly fired a staffer for taking his picture during the call, and then sort of apologized for it this week).
Tim Armstrong sent out a staff email today to apologize for the camera shot heard ’round the world (or at least heard by those who frequent Jim Romenesko’s blog). Because if you very publicly fire your creative director for taking your picture during a charged conference call where you are announcing bad news, as Mr. Armstrong did last Friday, the least you can do is send out an apology memo.
“I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods,” Mr. Armstrong wrote to staff in an email obtained by Mr. Romensko. “I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel.”
Elon Musk’s Hyperloop plans are due to drop today. [BBC]
Twitter has hired a lobbyist and formed a PAC. [Washington Post]
LAX is the most checked-in place on Facebook. Airports dominate the top 10, except for Disneyland (no. 7) and Times Square (no. 10), which is no surprise to anyone trying to cross 42nd Street. [Skift]
God bless HTC’s marketing department for thinking an ad campaign starring Robert Downey Jr. and a cat can pull the company out of its nosedive. [Engadget]
“Can the Minerva Project do to Ivy League universities what Amazon did to Borders?” Keep dreaming. [Wall Street Journal]
Here’s audio of Tim Armstrong seemingly firing a man for taking his picture mid-layoffs. [Romenesko]
We knew things weren’t going great over at AOL, but we’d no idea CEO Tim Armstrong had gone full Greta Garbo.
Earlier today, Mr. Armstrong gathered the employees of Patch together on a conference call to announce hundreds of site closing and layoffs, effective next week. Now, that was never going to go over very well. But according to reports published by Jim Romanesko and TechCrunch, the CEO made things even more miserable by, it seems, abruptly firing someone (maybe a creative director) who tried to snap a photo of Mr. Armstrong:
Hard times are hitting Patch, AOL’s network of hyperlocal news sites. In an earnings call yesterday, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said that he expects to shut, sell or find partners for nearly 300 of the 900 sites, Newsday reported this morning. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong said that layoffs will eliminate up to 500 positions, reported Jim Romenesko. Details of the layoffs will be announced on Friday.
Giving employees two days to speculate about upcoming layoffs understandably rankled staffers.
So much for “hyperlocal” news as the Next Big Thing. Ad Age Digital reports AOL is preparing to make big changes to Patch. Instead of replacing the vanishing hometown newspaper, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong says Patch.com is now on course to take on classified ads giant Craigslist:
tech media company known on GlassDoor.com for being a “great jumping-off point for other things,” is making a habit of creating new blogs due to the sheer bungling of perfectly good blogs. TechCrunch is like some kind of organ transplant being rejected by AOL’s immune system. It’s the end of the Erick era and the start of the Eric era, and time to say goodbye to New York-based writer Jason Kincaid in the freshest round of shakeups at the post-Arrington blog. TechCrunch—how the mighty have fallen—is rapidly losing ground to competitors. PandoDaily and Uncrunched, run by TechCrunch vets, seem to announce an exciting new thing every day.
Gianna Palmer is a guest blogger for Betabeat.
AOL released its fourth quarter earnings report today and not shockingly, profits are still falling. Q4 net income fell 66 percent to $22 million (23 cents a share) and revenue slipped 3 percent to $576.8 million. CEO Tim Armstrong seemed pretty happy, though.
“AOL took a large step forward in Q4 and I am very pleased with the way we ended the year,” Armstrong said.
At least one reason for Armstrong’s cheery outlook: AOL saw its ad revenue increase 10 percent to $363.8 million. To what does it attribute this growth? In part: its hyperlocal news effort Patch.
Starboard Value LP, who’s 4.5 percent stake in AOL makes it one of the company’s largest shareholders, is taking aim at Tim Armstrong and his attempt to reinvent AOL as a media powerhouse.
In a nine page letter reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Starboard points out that AOL has seen its stock slide 70% over the past year. The company may be positioning itself to get spots on AOL’s board of directors, with all eight seats up for re-election in February.
Mike Arrington has reportedly been fired from AOL, which currently owns TechCrunch, the blog he founded. That was the response to his demand, on TechCrunch, that AOL grant the site complete editorial independence or sell it back to him and the original stakeholders. Things are very much up in the air as to what will happen now that he’s been canned, but on his personal Twitter account, Mr. Arrington is going about business as usual.
“TechCrunch Disrupt update – There will be well over 2,500 people attending next week, shattering our previous attendance record of 2,100,” he wrote this afternoon. Like a proud father unable to handle the custody arrangement in a divorce, Mr. Arrington continues to use the paternal “our” in reference to TC Disrupt.