Just the other day we took a little trip down memory lane to see what AOL was up to. The verdict? Not much. Turns out "not much" isn't wrong, but what little the company has going on as an email provider is pretty dubious.
No one pays for email these days. The only folks who do need something more, such as more storage space than the average service offers or some kind of special security. Apparently, there's another group paying for email who shouldn't be — AOL subscribers.
The company, which at one time boasted upwards of 35 million subscribers in its stable, now only holds onto somewhere around four million. What's shocking is that not only could those remaining subscribers make up a large portion of AOL's profit, but AOL knows that the charge is unnecessary and shady.
In a profile of current AOL CEO Tim Armstrong (pictured), The New Yorker's Ken Auletta included this little bomb:
"[M]any of [AOL's subscribers] are older people who have cable or DSL service but don't realize that they need not pay an additional twenty-five dollars a month to get online and check their e-mail. "The dirty little secret," a former AOL executive says, "is that seventy-five per cent of the people who subscribe to AOL's dial-up service don't need it"
According to Auletta, the company could be making 80% of its profit thanks to these witless subscribers, which could mean as much as $244 million. Auletta also points to the fact that AOL is losing 30% of its subscribers every year, so maybe this won't take all that long to correct itself.
The bottom line? If you or someone you know — old or no — already pay for access to the Internet through an ISP, there's no need to pay AOL for a service that's free and easy (not to mention better) elsewhere.