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AOL Execs: These Are Our Darkest Days

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-08-10

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The year 2006 is not one AOL will forget, if it survives. It's only August and already the company has been yanked in front of legislatures, slammed by activist groups, embarrassed by its own customer service, and, most recently, tainted by "the data Valdez."

Oh, for the days when cancelled subscriptions and PC World reviews were the biggest problems!

The new executive on the block, Weblogs Inc. CEO Jason Calacanis, revealed yesterday that the year's catastrophic events have begun to take their toll internally. All companies take their lumps occasionally, but Calacanis says the weight of these events has not only overshadowed AOL's new product releases, but has taken the wind right out of his team.

Hard times at AOL right now.

That's the title, complete with a period's finality, of Calacanis' most recent blog post.

"I was so angry today that I had to get off my computer and do a three-mile run. I'm back at my desk but I'm still seething--how could this happen?!"

The post reads like words spilling over the sides of a psychoanalyst's couch. Calacanis is "all alone on the front lines," blogging solo about the internal crisis, pleading to other executives and staffers to weigh in publicly. He notes that AOL vice chairman and Core Service president Ted Leonsis has put himself out there, if briefly.

"In my time as an AOL executive, this is one of our saddest days. My deep apologies to all of our users. We will work hard to earn back your trust."

Leonsis' apology stacks upon other executive apologies this year.

"Yes, I'm sorry I did it," said founder Steve Case, referring to the AOL-TimeWarner merger.

"I appreciate hearing from you and being able to talk to you - and to personally apologize for your experience. At AOL, we have zero-tolerance for customer care incidents like this - which is deeply regrettable and also absolutely inexcusable," AOL vice president of corporate communications Nicholas Graham told Vincent Ferrari after "the call" made national news.

Calacanis announced he was taking a week off from blogging as "a cool down period." For those that have been paying attention to the corporate blogging phenomenon, this is about to get good.

Whether AOL weathers this storm or not, the outcome will become a chapter in undergraduate public relations, communications, and business management textbooks.

Calacanis takes on the tone of one in the trenches: "To my team (and everyone at AOL), keep fighting the good fight. Put your anger into your game and stay focused. The darkest hour is the one before the dawn. We're gonna get through this."

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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