The other day, Engadget editor Paul Miller announced his resignation from the AOL-owned publication, specifically blaming "The AOL Way".
"I’d love to be able to keep doing this forever, but unfortunately Engadget is owned by AOL, and AOL has proved an unwilling partner in this site’s evolution," he wrote on his personal blog. "It doesn’t take a veteran of the publishing world to realize that AOL has its heart in the wrong place with content. As detailed in the ‘AOL Way,’ and borne out in personal experience, AOL sees content as a commodity it can sell ads against. That might make good business sense (though I doubt it), but it doesn’t promote good journalism or even good entertainment, and it doesn’t allow an ambitious team like the one I know and love at Engadget to thrive."
Now, Engadget has lost another editor in Ross Miller, who says "The AOL Way" is not his only reason for leaving, but it certainly appears to be part of it.
Ross Miller wrote, "As for the reasons why, I won’t get too far into it. The AOL Way isn’t the sole reason, but it’s certainly a catalyst, a symptom of concerns I’ve had for a while. I worry about the long-term viability of what I foresee is the future business model. How our brand will be affected and how much control we’ll maintain over it. If we can continue to nurture the talent without burning them out. If we can get the needed resources to expand on our ideas. (Update: Just to be clear, Engadget is not currently subject to the AOL Way, and I’m not sure it ever will be. It’s not the driving reason behind why I left.)"
Engadget Editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky tweeted:
Just to be crystal clear: Engadget is not subject to the AOL Way at all. I can’t be any more direct — it’s not happening here.
The AOL Way, was exposed in an article at Business Insider recently, when an internal memo was leaked. The AOL Way is a document the company is using to train editors, telling them to decide what topics to cover based on traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality, and turn-around time. The whole thing can be seen here.
Clearly, The AOL Way has been a huge PR disaster for the company. Even if Engadget isn’t part of it, the fact that Engadget is so adamantly distancing itself from it, kind of gives off the impression of a rocky relationship between the publication and its owners.
AOL of course announced the acquisition of The Huffington Post earlier this month, appointing Arianna Huffington Editor-in-Chief of all AOL content. Here’s a snippet from the press release:
As part of the transaction, Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post’s co-founder and editor-in-chief, will be named president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all Huffington Post and AOL content, including Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, MapQuest, Black Voices, PopEater, AOL Music, AOL Latino, AutoBlog, Patch, StyleList, and more. (emphasis added)
As previously noted, these Engadget losses do not represent the first time there has been a little turbulence between AOL and its content producers. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington recently implied that AOL may have been responsible for an annoying interstitial ad that appeared on that blog. The fact that he wrote a post about that (after a public feud with Engadget) seemed to indicate that he was not worried about stepping on his parent company’s toes.