There’s an outstanding review of how AOL got itself into trouble over online advertising revenues over at the NYT. Highlights:

  • Overreliance in cross-promotions with other AOL/TW properties. (“Synergy”)
  • Advertising revenue from customers and suppliers that was clearly disguised in the purchase price of other goods and services. (“Partnership”)
  • Having to deliver on Steve Case’s and Gerald Levin’s promise of 30% revenue growth in a dying market. (“Partying like it’s 1999”)
  • Claiming that they could grow business that included tens of millions in one-time payments from failing companies trying to get out of ad contracts. (“Fraud”)

I never thought much of AOL as a company, but I’m staggered by what a house of cards it turned out to be.