AOL's take on journalism - under CEO Tim Armstrong - is a curious mix of advertorial and algorithms, a combination that the company hopes will help it survive next month's spin-off from Time Warner.
Having already announced plans to cut a third of the company's staff, AOL management believes that algorithms will better determine the content of interest to AOL's shrinking audience than the determinations of a fully-staffed editorial department. In this scenario, robots will be able to monitor the content interests of audiences across AOL's network and affiliated properties.
The reports generated from those robots would be sent out to an army of freelance content producers who would then create related content and post it during likely periods of interest, such as key holidays. AOL's advertisers would also be able to participate in this process, shaping the content created by these freelancers in a manner that generates more of an advertorial experience.
"Content is the one area on the Web that hasn't seen the full potential. Hopefully, we will spark a revolution of people doing content at a different scale," Armstrong told the Wall Street Journal
Is the AOL model the future of digital journalism?
"The internet needs more hot search keyword-driven advertorial 'content' about as much as the internet needs AOL," Gawker reported on Monday
The challenge that AOL will continue to face will be in growing its audience and its advertising base. Algorithms and advertorial content will not likely yield any notable editorial awards - but then again, AOL has not exactly been anything more than a portal-instant-messaging hybrid.