Does AOL Need A Mobile Manifesto?
With the emphasis on reorganizing AOL.com into a series of niche content sites with related display advertising over the last year and half, mobile hasn't been a top priority for the company. And the five key focus areas laid out since Armstrong assumed leadership of AOL in April: content, communications, advertising, local and mapping, and AOL Ventures, don't expressly include mobile (though it could fall logically under either communications or local and mapping).
While mobile is part of Garlinghouse's title, his job as described in the AOL announcement didn't seem to highlight that aspect in particular, focusing instead on his spearheading of AOL's efforts to expand email and instant messaging and lead the company's Silicon Valley operations. Where does that leave mobile exactly?
In July, Armstrong told Moco News, "There's two foundational elements that are going under every strategy area: one is global and one is mobile. You will see us with a clear, succinct strategy and structure around mobile and global going forward."
Now it's up to Garlinghouse to develop that strategy. Greg Sterling, who leads the local mobile search practice for Opus Research, believes mobile won't be treated as a separate platform at AOL so much as an extension of its strategy to create a growing number of niche properties.
"In a way it's a mirror of the 'local as a vertical' issue. Local isn't really a vertical, it's an element of almost every online content area or vertical. Mobile and local are both "horizontal-verticals," he wrote in a recent blog post. But he warned that mobile can't be thought of as an afterthought "or some sort of perfunctory exercise it it's going to work."
One thing to watch is whether Garlinghouse brings on any of his many fellow ex-Yahoo colleagues with specific responsibility for mobile operations. Yahoo's top mobile exec, Marco Boerries, left the company last February just before a management restructuring under incoming CEO Carol Bartz took place.