AOL announced a brand new homepage that will let consumers access multiple social networking services directly from AOL.com, becoming the first major portal to offer direct access to information from major social networking sites. This follows the move last month to provide access to multiple e-mail services from the AOL.com site, and is part of AOL’s ongoing strategy to open its homepage to outside services and content – offering consumers more customization options.
The new social networking feature allows consumers to post status updates to multiple social networks at once, and provides profile activity information, including new friend requests, status updates and mail notifications from services such as AIM, Bebo, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other third-party sites.
AOL.com also launched new tools and features to further personalize the user experience, bringing together third-party content and services from across the Internet. The new features give consumers more control over how content and services are displayed, letting them customize the main navigation bar by adding their own Web links, receive continuously updated local news, access RSS feeds from across the Web directly from the main page of AOL.com as well as personalize their experience with new design themes.
“As the Web becomes more fragmented, consumers want choice and relevance in their Web experiences. AOL.com is the first traditional big portal to offer access to popular social networking sites all in one place,” said Bill Wilson, Executive Vice President, AOL Programming. “Now consumers can connect with their numerous networks and information sources all from AOL.com. We have already seen success by opening up AOL.com to other e-mail providers. We will continue to enhance the appeal of our portal with the changes we are making today by adding more relevant programming, customization opportunities, greater integration of third party content, improved design and access to social networks directly from AOL.com.”
As part of this redesign, AOL’s digital advertising business Platform A, and AOL.com are offering more robust capabilities for advertisers including customized wallpapers, increased rich media capabilities, much deeper and richer content integration opportunities and more. For example, a recent one-day advertisement for a new DVD provided a chance for the advertiser to own the AOL.com homepage wallpaper for the day to reach consumers in a highly customizable and measurable way.
In September, the AOL.com site began allowing consumers access to Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail accounts, in addition to AOL and AIM Mail, allowing them to check e-mail from multiple accounts without having to go from site to site. That month, year-over-year page views to AOL.com grew 34%, unique visitors were up 12%, total visits were up 15% and total minutes were up 40%, according to the September 2008 comScore Media Metrix report.
“Leveraging our acquisitions of Sphere to deliver related articles and content in the RSS Reader, and Relegence to power local news stories will improve our current offering and serve to bring consumers a differentiated experience,” added Wilson.
The changes to AOL.com advance AOL’s overall programming strategy of focusing on passion points to create vertical websites to lean into the increasing fragmentation of the Web as users access multiple sites to get information that is most relevant and useful to their daily lives.