From the Verizon news release this morning announcing the $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL:
Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said: “Verizon’s vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multiscreen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience.”
Tim Armstrong, AOL chairman and CEO … said, “Verizon is a leader in mobile and OTT connected platforms, and the combination of Verizon and AOL creates a unique and scaled mobile and OTT media platform for creators, consumers and advertisers.”
First question from the assembled media: What the heck are you talking about? Can you say that again in English?
I wonder why companies still bother to issue press releases. For starters, it’s a safe bet that neither Verizon’s McAdam nor AOL’s Armstrong said any such things. The “quotes” undoubtedly were written by corporate communications specialists who are fluent in the peculiar language of corporate buzzspeak. “Premium digital experience?” “Global multiscreen network platform?” “Cross-screen connection?”
Who is the audience for this news release? Clearly not reporters or editors, who would never allow such gibberish to be used. Clearly not readers, because normal humans don’t talk like this. One has to assume, then, that news releases are written for internal consumption only, or perhaps for other corporate communications specialists at other companies — people who speak their particular jargon.
Or maybe it was written by Shingy, AOL’s resident “digital prophet.” (Yes, AOL has a well-paid employee whose job title is actually “digital prophet.”) No, that can’t be. Shingy is a storyteller.
I’m guessing McAdam and Armstrong both want to tell a story, about how the marriage of Verizon and AOL will be a good thing. The news release doesn’t tell a story, at least not in an effective way. It’s a waste of time for the people who produced it, and for the people they sent it to.
Here’s the real story, which neither Verizon nor AOL would ever say so bluntly: This is a merger of two companies struggling to find relevancy in the new digital world order. The old “phone” networks — Verizon’s legacy — are dying. People are becoming less interested in using their phones to talk, and more interested in using their phones for social media apps, information, and video downloads. The content business — AOL’s legacy — is no longer about content; content (the commoditized version of what we used to call news stories, TV shows, photographs, etc.) is merely a method of transmitting advertising. That’s why old line media companies like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are planning to publish stories directly on Facebook. More people (eyeballs) will see their stories on Facebook than on nytimes.com or wsj.com. More eyeballs equals more advertising revenue.
Verizon doesn’t care about the quality of the content. Just last year it tried to launch its own tech news site, the bizarrely named SugarSting, but folded it after one month. Reporters for Verizon’s tech news service were prohibited from writing about net neutrality, NSA spying, or other topics on which Verizon was, uh, sensitive.
Verizon’s core phone business is dying; voice is just an app on Verizon’s growing digital network, and not a very lucrative app at that. Video is where the money’s at. Customers pay more for broadband than they do for phone service. Verizon thinks that by adding AOL’s expertise in targeting and delivering advertising, it will be better able to compete with the new network titans, Facebook and Google. AOL still makes more than half a billion dollars a year selling 20th century dial-up Internet service to people who don’t know any better, but its real value today is based on its advertising automation technology.
Notice how both executives listed “advertisers” last in the trio of customers they want to serve, behind “creators” and “consumers.” This is called “burying the lede.” This acquisition is all about advertisers, and advertising algorithms.
Notice they called it a “premium customer experience,” not “the best” or “the fastest” or “the most useful” or “the most enjoyable.” Maybe the dictionary can explain the significance of “premium.”
Hmm. It’s not insurance. That leaves “costs more” and “more valuable.” Costs more for consumers, more valuable for advertisers.