The Press Releases of the Damned!

They came. From the biggest companies in the land. Bearing glad tidings. Which look pretty silly in retrospect.

Posted by  | Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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AOL and Time Warner mergeAOL and Time Warner Merge

January 10th, 2000

This may be the Holy Mother of All Press Releases That Promised Stuff That Didn’t Come to Be. The AOL-Time Warner deal was a catastrophic waste of money, in part because of the stunningly bad timing. (It happened just as dial-up began to die.) Few of the lofty goals ever amounted to anything, and many of the alleged good ideas detailed in the press release sound lame in retrospect. (AOL disks distributed through Warner Bros. stores?) Time Warner dumped the AOL from its corporate name in 2003; now it’s planning to dump AOL, period.



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21 Comments For This Post

  1. Bob Hoskins Says:

    Ted Turner lost “B” as in Billions (not Millions) on the AOL/Time Warner deal.

  2. Nathaniel Says:

    You’re assuming here that they originally had staff that knew what they were doing — never a safe assumption. My experience at CC was they always seemed incompetent, as long ago as I can remember.

  3. George Says:

    Windows Vista did “transform the way people work and play”. Those were the people who dumped Windows for OSX or Linux.

    “Millions of consumers had a hand in helping us design, test and create the most exciting versions of Windows and Office we’ve ever released.” Sure, blame the consumers for Vista.

    Funny how Microsoft even messed up the press release for Vista by assigning attributes of Vista to Office and vice versa.

  4. Peter Says:

    I’ve never wanted an “exciting” desktop. Just give me a boring one that I can configure the way I like, and apps that let me do my work in an efficient way.

    Completely changing the user interface (as from Office 2003 to Office 2007) isn’t the kind of “excitement” I want or need.

  5. Charles MacKay Says:

    Trite, backbiting yellow journalism (look it up) with a mediocre delivery, lazy annotation and no new info. What the #%*& is “smarter about that?

    Wow, man, you used to be cool.

  6. Ben Says:

    F this, tired of clicking next. The above folks are right, these’s this nifty thing called vertical scrolling, it’s not even a new technology, but it’s a very useful one. Until you learn to use it, I won’t be visiting this site anymore.

  7. quitcherbitchen Says:

    Ad Block. It works.

  8. Lillian Says:

    Eight pages? Really?

    Also, you left spell check on when you were screen capping the press releases.

  9. John Laudun Says:

    I like these kinds of pieces, Harry: even if the reality check is retrospective, it still works as a way to cut through the high levels of saccharine that engulf us everyday.

    And I like what you bring to TWiT conversations as well.

    But I do have to agree with other posters that ads interleaved into one page, or perhaps two pages, of copy would be much more welcome than 8 pages, if it comes down to page/ad hits. I suspect that part of the design decision here, however, was on the old illuminated spreads like Harper’s magazine used to do. (Perhaps it still does, but I grew tired of Lewis Lapham’s heavy editorial hand and gave up on the magazine a decade ago — there’s only so much of the Manhattanite elitism I can take. But skewering middle America’s perceived indolence or lack of intelligence just isn’t going to win points with me.)

    I like the idea of such graphic spreads, but the website’s seemingly fixed two-column design with the prominent square ad in the right-hand column sort of defeats the idea of the spread, which is probably why so many readers are a bit pissed about this particular design decision. If you’re gonna go for the spread, then go for it, but don’t pull up short. You’re going to test people’s patience.

    And we’re a testy lot.

  10. electronbee Says:

    This move sounds like a company I worked for in Herndon, VA. They sacked a whole lot of us more experienced people due to pay, expected benefits, negotiated company stock price, etc. After the sack they lost something like $300k/day as the inexperienced people did not know how to run any of the databases, mail servers, knew nothing of our in-house apps, etc. I had so many calls to come in and help but with no compensation.

  11. wow... Says:

    Seriously, don’t just sit there reading the feedback, go FIX YOUR ARTICLE and REPOST IT as ONE page! This is beyond lame. Honestly, my first thought was that you were trolling for bad wed-design award of the hour…

  12. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Bob Hoskins: Thanks for the catch–typo corrected.

    I’m sorry when people don’t like Technologizer–okay, I’m sorry when they express their discontent calmly like @John Laudun, and not so sorry when they call me a moron. Strangely enough, most people don’t have a strong inventive to please other people who believe them to be stupid. But I do listen and make changes based on feedback.

    For what it’s worth, this site rejects multiple annoying ad formats that are common on other sites and breaks most longer stories into fewer pages than most larger sites. Ultimately, I make the calls based on what I can deal with on other sites, and what frustrates me, and I don’t find multiple-page stories to be among the Web’s greatest evils. Reasonable people can and do differ. And the majority will ultimately rule, because it would be silly to break anything into more than one page unless most people found the clicking to be worth the effort.

    –Harry

  13. Dave M Says:

    What about the Segway (“Ginger”)??? It was going to change the way cities were built. Silly millionaire Dean Kamen.

  14. Norm M Says:

    Actually web apps didn’t necessarily need a network connection. Right from the start it was possible to save web apps on the iphone as bookmarklets, though this wasn’t widely done. Take a look, for example, at “http://scicalc.belfry.com/”, which is an iPhone scientific calculator web app that can be downloaded and used offline. The big drawback of web apps was performance.

  15. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Norm M: Good point, it’s possible to do Web apps that work without a net connection (and the excellent version of Gmail for the iPhone has limited offline capabilities).

    –Harry

  16. Xesdeeni Says:

    That action by Circuit City ensured I would never set foot in one again. I’d like to think that I helped push them into bankruptcy ;-)

    The thing that really pissed me off was that these poor employees had been given raises by…wait for it…the very same people who said they were making too much money! What were the employees supposed to do: “Oh, thank you very much for the offer of a raise, but I shouldn’t be making more than I am now, so no thank you.”? And why weren’t these “associates” given the option of taking a pay cut to keep their jobs?

    At the time, I wanted to see the CC management be fired and replaced by people making less in kind. At this point, I hope they all are still unemployed, pondering where they went wrong (here’s a hint for them…see above press release!).

  17. nygenxer Says:

    This is a great concept. Suggestions:

    1) Merger of Travelers Insurance with Citigroup – repeal of Glass-Steagall Act
    2) Enron – energy deregulation
    3) Anything dot com & “the old rules don’t apply”
    4) Airlines – benefits of airline deregulation
    5) Telecommunication mergers & lower prices
    6) Telecommunications – fiber optics & promised internet speeds
    7) Press Releases from cigarette manufacturers
    8) Fast food PR promoting “Healthy foods” of “Healthy children”
    9) Clothing/sneaker manufacturers & 3rd world slave children labor
    10) General Electric & clean water (easy)
    11) General Motors/Ford & “Quality cars”
    12) Any bank/investment firm promoting mortgage deregulation
    13) Any HMO PR – “We care”
    14) Any insurance company PR that failed to provide coverage after disaster (like State Farm & Hurricane Katrina)
    15) Coal & “Clean air”
    16) Exxon et. al. & “Green energy” & “Energy solutions”
    17) Anything from a Major Pharmaceutical company

  18. JeffM Says:

    I liked the pagination- this is formatted similiar to the Forbes top 10s- which worked for me.

    I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this website- you have some vile readers!

  19. Raven Says:

    Actually, AOL disks still exist, and they were free even when they first appeared (you still had to pay for the internet!). And, the idea DID make AOL Software able to look “cool” (of course there is all the stupid crap that nobody will ever think is good, like the “Teen People” keyword they mention, but Microsoft and every other generic corporation (generic == Comedy Central etc.) do all these stupid things as well); I recently went through all the settings options on the AOL that my dad (a Comcast subscriber) for some reason still purposely installs on his computer, and found I could do awesome things, like having Conan O’Brien say, “Greetings, Nerd!” instead of having AOL say, “Welcome!”. If dial-up was still remotely usable (and, the only reason it isn’t is because of the idiocy of most website designers who code things in “annoying” mode rather then in “normal internet”), and if AOL’s wasn’t horrendously expensive (almost $40/month I believe, when the rest are between $3 and $7), they would be who I’d pick because of the cool stuff they still do (for some reason… ). They still pretend to assume you want 15 other products, but most are only shortcuts, and every company will do that. They still slow down your computer slow as fuck… but if you were paying for the service, you’d be paying for the service… it doesn’t actually cause any errors it just crashes itself every so often. Of course that that always-been-horrendous browser, but you don’t have to it (unless you’re an idiot like my dad and step-mom????). Because of the software, they have the best system for bookmarking, the easiest way to read & write mail, etc., etc. (Although you’d have to open all the mail links by by c/p’ing I guess.)

    So basically, the merger worked very well at it’s intended purpose… it’s just that AOL sucked so badly on it’s own that it didn’t do anything for the companies. Well that and of course that the majority implementation was either “exclusive” content that you can go to “keyword someshow” to see synopsis of the show in a flash-heavy environment!!… or you could just go to wwww.tvstation.com/someshow and see it in a non-flash-heavy environment since that was before everyone started screwing up the web with their retarded website “improvements”… [I forget the second half of my 'either'!]. When dial-up “died”, as you say, the majority of computer users still HAD dial-up at that time. Anything else was for businesses, libraries and schools. Dial-up ACTUALLY died a little bit after that.

    And, seriously; 5.8 million subscribers?? Like, over 1,000,000??!?
    Wow, “average”-intelligence people are stupider then I thought…

  20. new orleans computer repair Says:

    This was really sad for me. :(

    As a technician, I am 100% ANTI-BEST BUY, and now there isn’t a single store for me that carries video cards.
    Walmart didn’t have a single internal hard drive and had no idea what one was. Office Depot did, but they’re way over priced and their selection of hard drives was 1.
    Now I order everything online.

  21. new hp chromebook Says:

    Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your
    website on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you present here and
    can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone
    .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, awesome site!

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