My daily contact with AOL is the start page that launches when I open the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) program. I scan that page as well as Yahoo! Instant Messenger‘s start page to see what headlines teens and young adults are seeing.
Last week, an intriguing headline on the AIM start page caught my interest enough to click: Mom Finds Osama Video Before Release. It was not, however, the fascinating story of a mom outwitting terrorists online that intrigued me after I’d clicked; it was what AOL was doing with their beta AOL News site.
The AOL News beta combines a news aggregator function with blogging, tagging, and embedding features to enable conversational media. The news, photos, and video are served up by content partners, primarily the Associated Press.
The left-hand sidebar features a "blog chatter" tag cloud with links to related content within blog posts powered by the blog search engine Sphere:
Also on the left-hand sidebar, the "blog chatter" tag cloud, are links to the most popular stories, most commented on stories, and the most recent comments:
This is where AOL begins to really enable conversational media as an integrated extension of modern journalism. One aspect of this is providing embeddable content that users can share at their own online homes such as their blogs or MySpace pages. AOL News is giving users embeddable video from the AP and other sources:
Here’s the actual video:
In addition to sharing video, the AOL News beta site features links to top user-submitted news from Propeller, Netscape’s digg-like social editing clone, tools for sharing stories on social bookmarking, a link to AOL forums to discuss stories, and, finally and most importantly, the blog commenting function for each story.
I think this must be the type of model traditional media must take if they are to survive in this environment. In order to maintain an audience large enough to sustain an advertising supported model, traditional media will need to use their content to enable conversations around that content and build themselves into the central gathering point for people to discuss learn about and discuss the events of the day.
From a PR and Internet marketing perspective, this conversational media is another opportunity for earned media and the a chance to engage targeted audiences with your client’s story.