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How is AOL Still Earning Most of its Money from “AOL Connect” Subscribers?

mtv aol

I remember when I received my first “internet capable” computer; it was a long time ago on my birthday in July. If you know anything about July in the southeast, you know it’s typically hot, humid and sticky. This weather is far too miserable to spend any real time outside. And until receiving my first computer, there was no reason to hide inside during the summer, other than to catch a brief reprieve from the heat and bask in AC. But that all changed the day the Internets came to my house. In fact, not only did the Internet fairy come to my house, it came to my own ROOM! I felt like Steve Jobs, who was once quoted as saying, “I’m very excited about having the Internet in my den.” And I agree: One of coolest things ever!

I had a great time learning how to navigate the new and endless amount of information at my fingertips. Thanks to AOL I had means of connecting to the web back then. I remember how awesome it was to get email and hear “You’ve Got Mail!” out of my little desktop speakers. I also remember how insanely slow the connection was and the amount of time it took to download ANYTHING!!! The end of the world didn’t seem nearly as scary as it did when a landline telephone call would boot me offline and stifle all of my patiently awaited downloads-in-progress. At 56k max download speeds, it took a long time to download anything larger than a text document. The bigger the file, the longer it took, and the greater the chances that someone would call and muddle it all up!

Ah, those were the good ol’ days: when the Internet was fresh and new and MTV still played music videos. But that was a long time ago. With blazing fast Internet connection speeds available now to most people in major parts of the world, dial-up Internet and AOL seems like a thing of the distant past. But wait…could it be…is AOL still around? Are there STILL people out there that readily pay AOL a regular subscription fee to connect to the Internet? Well contrary to popular opinion it’s true. Not only is it true, is seems that AOL still has some meat left on its bone in the “AOL Connect” market. Unfortunately, in this case, any meat left on the bone is too much.

Recently, AOL posted its fourth quarter financial results and it was a shock to find out that they are still earning most of their money from subscribers who are still, for whatever reason, actually paying to connect to the Internet using AOL. Worse, some people pay for AOL services while paying someone else for Internet. Do people not realize that they can just get an Internet connection bundled with their cable or phone service provider? Or do they simply love the outdated, glitch and slow AOL browser/toolbar combo, plastered with ads and worthless celebrity gossip headlines? Apparently some people purposefully choose AOL, or they don’t realize contemporary avenues for more sophisticated accessibility.

Amazingly, according to the financial news site Business Insider, AOL Connect subscribers are still one of the biggest reasons AOL is staying profitable. They reported that in the fourth quarter, the company earned $176.7 million from its “Membership Group,” which is more than company’s overall $133.1 million profit. I find this shameful. AOL makes a pretty underhanded and dishonest move by misleading their customers into thinking that the company holds the magical key to the Internet. In no small way, AOL is blatantly lying to customers and stealing their money.

There are longtime AOL customers that I’ve spoken with over the past few years that still think that AOL exclusively allows online access, web browsing and email. I thought that this population was very small, with only a few pockets of people scattered throughout the U.S. But I was wrong – there are many more AOL subscribers out there than I initially thought. Fortunately the tides are slowly turning. People are becoming more technologically savvy each day by learning that Internet service isn’t nearly as complex and fixed by primary providers. Furthermore, the masses are learning that AOL isn’t the only email service that exists and that there are much better email services nowadays to choose from.

Don’t get me wrong; most of us recognize that AOL was useful (and fantastic!) in its heyday. But those days are gone for the better. Lucky other areas of the AOL corporation seems to be slowly growing since those “old school” subscribers aren’t going to stick around and line their stockholders’ pockets forever. If they don’t get it together and start focusing on new and honest ways of generating revenue, then the useful existence of AOL as a whole could be a thing of the past entirely…just like MTV.

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