Either taking liberties, or a sign of things to come

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AOL has started putting advertisements on its customers paid-for email. Its like you putting a letter in the post box and the Royal Mail opening the envelope and putting in a flyer for a double glazing firm.I would feel violated if Apple that to me with the email account for this blog.

Understandably, AOL’s diminishing customer base feels righteously peeved off that this latest indignity.

I think that its a sign that AOL is looking to reinvent itself by moving into the portal market a la Yahoo! and Google as its dial-up business continues its slow death spiral and the AOL disk becomes a cultural relic like the Sears Roebuck catalogue before it. And while the business logic behind it may be perfectly sound, AOL have left both their customer service staff and PR team with a more immediate problem.Lastly is the longer term issue, over the past five years AOL’s brand has been on the wane, if the company wants to reinvent itself it needs to protect the brand from further erosion of goodwill, instead ads in email has just become another brick in the wall.

There is now a confidence within the web game that web advertising revenues are here to stay, the collapse of five years ago is now a distant memory, when online dating saved the bacon of of some of the web media titans.

Meanwhile over in Europe the Discuss campaign now starts to make sense as a bit of corporate brand awareness. According to unconfirmed news reports it looks like AOL UK may be up for sale.(Kudos to SearchEngineJournal).