2001 Direct Marketer of the Year
As Brandt says:
Instant messaging is more than a phone. More spontaneous. In the old days, kids would come home from school and get on the phone and tie the thing up for hours. Now they make contact via instant messaging—a group of them can chat online in real time.
In business it has liberated informal communications. No more trying to reach an executive by trying to get through the secretary via phone. No more long phone calls. No more meetings in offices. Just pop on instant messaging and get the job done. Why, Steve Case once gave me a performance review and raise via instant messaging.
In 1998, with a certain amount of satisfaction, the AOL cat ate the CompuServe canary by acquiring the service and its 2 million members. A more important acquisition that same year was the acquisition of ICQ, the pioneer international instant messaging service. Suddenly AOL was delivering more instant messages and e-mail than the U.S. Postal Service was delivering snail mail. One year later, ICQ membership had tripled to 40 million and AOL acquired Netscape, famous as the first big Internet IPO that set the stage for the modern South Sea Bubble known as the Internet boom.
Then, in 2001, AOL acquired the venerable Time Warner empire and leapfrogged into the front ranks of American mega-business. For Brandt, watching the huge cultural changes has been fascinating as the totally decentralized, 70-year-old Time Warner has had to mesh with upstart AOL and its more centralized organization. "It's totally gratifying to assemble the staggering amount of talent, assets, willingness—downright eagerness—that exists across all divisions and companies and work together on cross-company initiative," Brandt says.
An example of the cross-company initiative is that AOL is putting on close to 100,000 paid subscribers a month to Time publications. What's more, the orders are a circulation manager's nirvana—"til forbid" or automatic renewal—a dramatic change from the traditional subscription model where once a year the publisher is forced to beg the reader to renew.