This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
M E D I A   U N S P U N
AOL, Yahoo Take Race to Fast Track
2002-09-13

AOL's new CEO, Jonathan F. Miller, shook up the company's structure yesterday, and one outcome will be a renewed emphasis on broadband. Separately, today Yahoo and SBC begin offering high-speed DSL service.

First to AOL. The big eastern papers all featured the story prominently. It's a complicated story, involving AOL history, regulatory scrutiny, and the possible implications of the management changes on AOL's strategy, specifically for its cable-based broadband Internet access bundled with AOL value-adds. Remarkably, the three major newspapers hit many of the same high points, which we suppose speaks to Jonathan Miller's ability to stay on-message.

The New York Times found the best quote of the morning about the disbanding of AOL's business affairs group, which had engineered the tricky advertising deals that caught the attention of federal regulators. Mr. Miller said that most former employees of that division would be put to work selling advertising across the company. "We need a sales force, not a deal force," he said. The Wall Street Journal's coverage leaned heavily on the accountability and oversight aspects of the reorg.

The Washington Post's piece was the most wide-ranging of those we surveyed, unsurprising since AOL's headquarters is in its backyard. Reporter Frank Ahrens moved from the accountability story, to a roll call of who's up and who's down, to a detailed consideration of AOL's future in broadband. Ahrens concluded with speculation about deposed Bertelsmann chief Thomas Middelhoff's discussions with AOL bigwigs, calling Middelhoff "the most fascinating free agent in the industry."

In other broadband news, Yahoo and SBC confirmed yesterday that their joint DSL offering will be available starting today in all 13 midwestern and western states where SBC offers phone service. News.com noted that yesterday's announcement came shortly after details of the offering were posted, apparently prematurely, on Yahoo's Web site. News.com links to a screen shot of the booboo. Fast work, guys.

The Sacramento Bee outlined the plan's tiered pricing and noted that the two companies are "vague about the financial details of their partnership." Bizreport.com quoted an SBC vice president crowing that the deal will "bring broadband to the masses." None of the coverage mentioned that DSL service is typically available only to subscribers who live within a few miles of a telephone office. Does that give AOL's cable-based broadband the edge? - Keith Dawson

America Online Is Making More Changes at the Top
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/13/technology/13AOL.html

America Online Gets Revamp To Improve Its Accountability
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1031840653513873075,00.html
(Paid subscription required.)

AOL Unveils Changes In Leaders, Structure
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10411-2002Sep12.html

Yahoo, SBC ready DSL launch
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-957634.html

Yahoo, SBC Unveil High-Speed Service
http://www.bizreport.com/article.php?art_id=3736

SBC, Yahoo! combine forces to enter high-speed ISP market
http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/story/4379970p-5402030c.html