Journalists Jump Print's Sinking Ship For AOL Jobs
As a growing wave of newspapers file for bankruptcy, slash budgets or go online-only, the Web portal is snapping up seasoned reporters and editors to staff its expanding roster of niche sites.
AOL today is expected to announce a series of editorial hires today for its Stylelist.com and FanHouse.com sites, including Diane Davis, formerly lifestyles editor at The Associated Press, as Stylelist's director of content development.
The site has also brought on Sarah Cristobal as senior fashion editor from Harper's Bazaar Bazaar.com, and Laura Kenney, former editorial manager at Sephora.com, as beauty editor.
FanHouse, meanwhile has hired a half-dozen former reporters and columnists from newspapers including the Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Newark Star-Ledger and the Contra Costa Times. Sunny Wu, who covered the Beijing Games for msnbc.com, will be the Page One Editor for FanHouse, AOL's main sports site.
The latest infusion of "old media" editorial talent follows the addition of Melinda Henneberger, formerly of The New York Times and Newsweek, as top editor of AOL's PoliticsDaily.com site launching in April. She's already brought on writers including Carl Cannon, White House correspondent for National Journal; USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro; and Patricia Murphy, creator of citizenjanepolitics.com.
Similar hires are also ongoing at AOL News and AOL Money & Finance.
Capitalizing on the abundance of veteran journalists is part of AOL's strategy to add heft to its wide range of content properties. "We're in a market for journalism that is in a lot of turmoil right now," acknowledged Marty Moe, senior vice president of AOL's MediaGlow. Publishing division. "What we're doing here at MediaGlow is at least one form of new and sustainable media that holds dear the values of traditional journalism."
With 70 vertical sites up and running another 30 set to come online this year, the editorial expansion will continue. "We are now in a position to aggressively invest and grow in these categories when it's most needed," said Moe.
The editorial hiring push is taking place even as the company this month completes a 10% companywide workforce reduction, cutting 700 people. "Even within the MediaGlow organization there are places where we can be more efficient," said Moe, without being more specific about cutbacks in the division.
The layoffs come as result of the recession-induced ad falloff and AOL's recent restructuring into three units; the Platform-A advertising unit; the People Networks communications and social networking arm; and MediaGlow.
To help hasten AOL's turnaround, parent Time Warner earlier this month also replaced CEO Randy Falco with former Google ad exec Tim Armstrong. The new CEO told paidContent this month he thinks "there's a great opportunity for AOL to play a big role in the future of the transition to digital media."
With properties ranging from celebrity gossip site TMZ to personal finance hub WalletPop to African-American portal Black Voices, MediaGlow boasts 73 million monthly visitors and a 21% increase in page views in the last year. But the audience gains have yet to translate into bigger ad dollars as ad revenue at AOL fell 18% in 2008.