If you spend a lot of time getting entertainment news and commentary online, you might have noticed something is missing today. That’s because last Friday, AOL shuttered its entire AOL Music division, which included news sites Spinner, The BookBox, The Boot, and Noisecreep. Also affected was Comics Alliance, the company’s comic book news source.
News of the closures started to leak out via Twitter on Friday afternoon. Spinner was the first to release the news, via a (now deleted) tweet that read “Hey guys. Just found out from AOL that we’re shutting down. Today is our last day. Seriously.” Dan Rielly, Spinner’s editor, followed that with a tweet on his own account that read “Well, we all just got laid off. AOL Music is finished.”
Although news of Comics Alliance’s closure didn’t break until later – It was confirmed by Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6 blog on Monday morning – it’s understood that CA staff received word of their layoffs at the same time as the AOL Music sites.
According to a report on the Verge, staff from the various shuttered sites met with Susan Lyne, who was hired as AOL’s CEO for content brands outside of the Huffington Post franchises in March, on Friday and were told that their sites were underperforming. One source said that Lyne told them that “it was her job to cut underperforming units.” However, in a tweet from Comics Alliance founder and former editor Laura Hudson on Monday, she argued that the closure “wasn’t performance-related. The traffic on the site was better than ever.”
When Lyne was hired last month, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong responded to those suggesting that her hiring meant a changes for the way the company was approaching non-Huffington Post-generated content. “I think it is going to enhance it,” he said, suggesting that Lyne had already “sent me a detailed email about what needs to get fixed.” Describing Lyne as “another game-changing player,” Armstrong suggested that her hiring would help make AOL “the world’s best content company.”
Albeit, it seems, a company that is now producing significantly less content.
News of the closures comes ahead of AOL’s first quarter earnings report due next week. Ad Age notes that AOL’s domestic display ad revenue fell by three percent year-on-year when it was announced in February, and that the AOL Brand Group – what Lyne is in charge of – “accounts for a comparatively tiny percentage of AOL’s operating income.” Clearly, it was a little bit too tiny for the company’s liking.