We’ve been hearing that some of AOL’s employees are unhappy with the company’s growing focus on boosting traffic above all else, but until now that has been limited to anonymous complaints and vague reports of discontent. Today, however, AOL-owned Engadget lost a longtime editor, and he didn’t leave quietly.
Paul J. Miller announced his departure from Engadget on his personal blog. Judging from his earliest post, Miller has been at Engadget since September 2005. For context, that’s around the time that AOL acquired Engadget’s owner Weblogs, Inc., and it’s also a year before VentureBeat was founded — Miller has been at the gadget news site for a while.
So why leave now? After the usual thank yous and reminiscences about his time at Engadget, Miller explains his discontent with his current employers:
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. 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.
Miller is referring specifically to a company document that was leaked to Business Insider back in January that outlined “The AOl Way,” an ambitious plan to increase the company’s traffic that emphasizes every blog post must be a moneymaker.
As part of chief executive Tim Armstrong’s plans to turn the company around, AOL has also been making some high-profile acquisitions, like the popular tech news site TechCrunch and the even more popular political news site The Huffington Post. In both cases, one of the first questions that came up was how long Armstrong can keep the sites’ editors around.
To be clear, I haven’t seen any signs that either TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington or The HuffPo’s Arianna Huffington are about to head out the door. But it looks like Armstrong’s direction is making some writers mad, and he can’t hold on to everyone.
[image of Armstrong and Huffington via Yfrog/Arianna Huffington]