"AOL and Time Warner Merge" has been a huge front-page headline in most U.S. newspapers and on news Web sites everywhere, and it has been on the minds of many people in the media business both online and off. For reactions to the merger from a wide selection of journalists and other concerned people, please click below.
"There is absolutely nothing in Steve Case's background that suggests he is particularly well-equipped to lead a new kind of unimaginably complex media conglomerate into the 21st century, and Wall Street analysts who are so blinded by the hype surrounding this deal that they fail to consider it carefully are likely to be sorry. Along with some of the other arrogant lynchpins of the digital economy, AOL would rank tops among companies that have routinely exploited and mis-handled their dependent customer bases. Could there be anybody alive in America who hasn't personally experienced or known many people who have personally experienced the interminable cut-offs, waits and disconnections that have, from the first, been a staple of the way American Online has done business? How many times has Steve Case had to go on his own online service to apologize for delays and problems brought about by a company that prized growth well ahead of honesty and service?
"Are consumers really well served when one company controls more content and access than any other company in the world? Is individualism, free expression, diverse opinion advanced when the information economy breaks down into two or three "old and new" media conglomerates that control virtually all of the archived news and entertainment information online, and increasingly, the means to deliver it?"
"Smaller niche websites could be pushed further into the shadows by mega-media companies like AOL/Time Warner that have almost unlimited Internet and television promotion resources they can use to boost their own websites. But on the good side, the merger between AOL and Time Warner seems to go hand-in-hand with AOLs recent deal with Gateway to use Gateway's new Information Appliances based on Amiga technology. This could open the doorway to Information Appliances in the market place a lot quicker than many might have expected. With Gateway, Amino [now Amiga Coporation] and probably others able to produce this type of machine, this could possibly be the fatal blow to MS that many have been waiting for."
"The bottom line of this proposed deal is nothing more than crass commercialism. What a huge advertising coup this is for Bob Pittman of AOL, he must be drooling at the thought of how to put AOL's nefarious 'pop-up' ads on CNN and print via Time magazine. From a public policy perspective, this venture is D.O.A. as well: no company should be allowed to own the content as well as the conduit. Despite the rosey promises from AOL's Steve Case that 'all comers' will be welcomed to compete on the new venture's cable Internet access system, it remains to be seen just how stalwart Case remains in backing up that promise. Remember, this is the same Steve Case that, under oath during his deposition in the Microsoft antitrust case, swore with a straight face that 'We are not a competitor to Microsoft.'"
"Here's a reason to fear AOL's control. AOL blocked delivery for the last edition of the AOL Watch newsletter. Did the newsletter's 25,000 AOL subscribers trigger an overzealous spam filter? Or was it that this edition was the first to remind users of the phone number for discontinuing service. (AOL had kicked the ACLU off the service after six years, and there was discussion about cancelling accounts en masse...) Either way, remember: Whoever controls the wires can control the content."
"I can't imagine that this merger will in any way affect local news gathering or viewing. To duplicate the job we do would require setting up a newsroom. I mean, let's face it; with streaming audio and video you could do a 6 PM News, but this would require a ton of cash, and the local stations already have the major headstart, not only in style but in established viewing. This would be an expensive proposition that would not bear fruit for longer than the 'bean counters' could stand.
"Also lets just say that my station which is a CBS O&O, (CBS already provides news to AOL) put our newscast on-line. Would this change the way our competition does news? No, the primary audience is still watching over breakfast or dinner or in bed at 11. The smaller on-line audience would essentially be getting a big promo for the big shows."
"What with AOL consuming Time Warner and threatening the stability of the world and all, it seemed to me that it would be good and proper to seek the lighter side of the matter. Here is a short quiz. Identify the proper AOL Spokesmen for the following phrases...
'You've, I say, you've got mail, boy!'
'We are going to buy ICQ because it obstructs our view of Venus!'
'Nnnnyou've got mail, Doc!'
"These are of course restricted to classic WB cartoons. But the fun of it is, AOL now owns most of Western Media! :P - so the field of potential spokesmen is almost infinite!"
"We don't really view either company as a competitor. We did a major deal with AOL in 1999 to provide our content for the computing channels on AOL.com, netcenter.com, compuserve.com and the computing and Internet channels on the subscriber services AOL and CompuServe. Over the past year we have enjoyed the relationship, and the audience. At this point, the notion of adding Time Warner to the mix makes it even better."
"The lesson is clear: send out enough pieces of direct mail and you, too, can own the world."