A gala party last night in New York featuring comedian Dana Carvey and singer Alanis Morissette kicked off a $100 million advertising blitz to announce America On Line's new Version 8.0 software and to make several announcements regarding their business strategy.
AOL CEO Jon Miller announced a major shift in advertising strategy in that the online service will no longer be accepting 3rd party pop-up advertising, and will be phasing it out as the commitment to advertising inventory for these pop-ups diminishes. Additionally, AOL will be ending merchandise sales on its service.
AOL also announced the release of its newest software Version 8.0. According to AOL, the new software release is intended to vastly improve the user experience, which it believes will be key to maintaining the membership that it enjoys today. AOL Version 8.0 offers over 100 feature enhancements, including:
- Enhanced reliability through a new feature that will automatically reconnect an interrupted session and return members to the areas they were visiting;
- AOL(r) Call Alert, a new online call waiting service that lets members know who is calling while they are online and also allows members to handle calls using several message response options;
- E-mail enhancements that help members deal with unwanted e-mails by separating their incoming messages into those from people they know, recognized bulk senders and unknown senders;
- Multiple Simultaneous Login feature (for AOL Broadband users) that allows up to seven different Screen Names on the same AOL account to log in simultaneously through a single connection;
- A new AOL Guardian(tm) feature that allows parents to get a "report card" of their kids' online activities; and
- Alerts & Reminders features that let members receive daily news, updates, and personal reminders both online and on their mobile phone or other wireless device.
AOL has been struggling to maintain its dominant lead among competitors for online members. AOL still dominates the online market with 35 million subscribers, dwarfing its nearest rival, Microsoft's MSN, which has about 9 million users. But MSN has been adding customers at a faster rate, growing at a rate of about 30 percent a year.