Friday, December 2, 2005

"We're From Headquarters and We're Here To Help"

The following letter from AOL VP Bill Schreiner, was printed with a photo [not included here] over at Editor Joe's journal.  See my Other Journals for a link. I will reply to it shortly, one line at a time, here in this space, but you may want to copy and paste it into your journal so you can do the same. 

Here's a bio from a conference he attended:

Bill Schreiner

VP and GM of AOL Community Programming, AOL

As Vice President and General Manager of Community Programming for America Online, Bill Schreiner spearheads new programming experiences for such core AOL products as journals (blogs), chats, message boards, social networking, groups, home pages and more.

Schreiner began his career at AOL in 1996 as "CEO of Love" for his work on Love@AOL, which he developed into the largest romance and personals site on the web. With the acquisition of MapQuest in 2000, he became Vice President of Product and Programming for MapQuest and led the redesign and growth of the site, expanding traffic from 8 million to more than 16 million unique visitors per month. More recently, Schreiner served as head of Product Strategy for AOL Entertainment while overseeing the creation and launch of AOL TICKETS.

FOLKS? How patronizing. Let's have some respect. "Dear Members of the AOL Journals Community."

Joe has told you that the senior executives here at AOL have been listening to your opinions and comments about the addition of ads on AOL Journals. 

Are you going to start saying things like, "We feel your pain"?

I'm stopping by Magic Smoke to let you know he's been straight with you on that point.

You mean he was lying about other stuff?

I'm not here to report that we're changing our strategy on the ads.

You're here to put lipstick on this pig.

The ads are staying for the foreseeable future.

Na na na na na.

Advertising is an important part of how we make money, and we're not ashamed of that.

Translation: Paid AOL memberships used to be the way we made money, but we've lost over 600,000 members in the last three months and we're kind of ashamed of that. So now we think the ad banners can save our ass. And we don't care who gets in our way.

I'll admit we'd all love a “do-over” when it comes to how this was communicated.

Where is "do-over" located in the MBA handbook of marketing communication? 

On that score, the best we can do now is to work harder at making sure big changes don't occur again without proper communication.

The problem is that AOL is so out of touch with us, you wouldn't know a BIG CHANGE if it bit you on the butt. You didn't think we'd notice the ads, did you? It never occurred to you that they might annoy us. You probably didn't even realize that adding them to our journals would be considered a BIG CHANGE. Now, after missing this BIG CHANGE, how do you plan to recognize the next BIG CHANGE so you can be sure you properly communicate the exact way you're going to be messing with us?

We've learned a lot in the last two weeks... so thank you for your comments here and in email. We've heard loud and clear that you are passionate about what you write about in your blogs.

We are passionate about getting rid of the ad banners. Have any AOL exec types actually read any of the AOL journals?  Or do you have people who do that for you?

Some of you are convinced that the addition of ads destroys that experience.  I am less certain of that. 

Can you say CA-CHING?

I can't reconcile it with the fact that we have wonderful, passionate communities thriving in ad-supported pages in message boards, Groups, Chat, Hometown, Email, AIM... really across the entire network both inside the paid serviceand out.

Whoa. Hold it, AOL Love-Boy. You're talking apples and oranges. Comparing those places with AOL Journals is like comparing a dank, urine drenched waiting room of a bus station filled with an odd mix of people to a well-appointed living room in a private home.

You expect ads all over the grimy walls of a Greyhound terminal. You do not expect neon signs blinking in the privacy of your home when friends stop by.

Just like you, we don't all see eye-to-eye on this internally. That's understandable.

You just rammed the ad banners down everyone's throats?

Since AOL Journals had no ads for so long, I can understand why some believed that they never would.

There are those among us who feel this was a promise that was verbalized. Actually, logic would dictate a no ad policy. But this is AOL, so logic has nothing to do with policy.

Some of you have moved on because of this and that's understandable too. We're sorry this change has affected the way you feel about us. We thank you for the contribution you made while you were here. We will miss your words. We will miss your passion.  If you've moved on to another blog provider, we hope you'll maintain the relationships you've made here. You'll always be welcome in J-Land no matter where you choose to blog.

Gag me.  This is so smarmy I have to take a shower.

We've also learned how important the J-Land community is to the majority of you who have elected to stay.

The AOL journals community is arguably more important to those who left. Their passion, to use your word, is in direct proportion to their love of what we have created here versus what you have done to denigrate it. Some of us have one foot out the door, but are staying to continue the fight. Of course, you'll find a way to make us want to leave for good, too. This letter is a nice start.

You are important to this community and to us, and we appreciate the understanding and support that you've shown.

How are you going to show it?

A special thanks to all the folks who have thrown a virtual hug around Joe here at Magic Smoke and in email.

Haaaaaaaaaa. Does anyone else find this amusing? I feel sorry for the guy. But no hugging, please. He was sent by upper management with bailing wire and pliers to deal with growing journal issues. Thanks to you he now has an insurgency that threatens to sink his little boat. Even though he's made you show your face to take the heat off, he's still a corporate lackey.

Thank you for putting this bump in the road in your rearview mirror. We're excited about moving on as well.

YOU have put this behind you. YOU are moving on.
Careful, that bump has spikes. 

I've asked the team to double down and speed up the delivery of some new features you've requested.

Power corrupts.  Absolute power makes for long weekends.

They are eager to get to it. 

Or else.

Some of my favorites that are coming before the end of the year:

Oh good, more bizarro features to screw up our journals. I see none of the ones we've been asking for, repeatedly, made the list. Spellcheck anyone?

Buddy List Rostering:
instantly set your Buddy List as the "roster" for your private Journal - changes to your Buddy List will update the roster automatically.
Blog This: a new feature that allows easycreation of new journals and blog entries that link back to other posts.
Partner Ping: makes it easier for 3rd party indexers such as Feedster, Technorati, BlogPulse, PubSub, Google and others to receive updates to your Journals. This will make your blog easier to find.

Early in 2006, we're working on mobile blogging, online presence, skinning, shared journals and other features that you've mentioned in the past. We would love tohear from you about which of these features you think you'd use the mostand why.

Mobile blogging, online presence, skinning -- these sound like features your techs want. Have you checked the demographics of the typical journaler?

Thanks,  For what? Being powerless to remove you?

Bill Schreiner, VP AOL Community Programming.
Email me at:


robbush6 said...

Why is it that people who try to help make me nervous? And queasy.

robbush6 said...

Okay, as whacked as it sounds, the banner ads are as intrusive as if you just found your snot-nosed little brother has been in your diary and now knows that you are crazy about some boy named Skeeter in 3rd hour English.

Snotty had no business getting in there, even if the lock is flimsy and you can pick it with a paper clip. Your hormonally-based love for Skeeter has now be tarnished by this transgression, and no matter how hard you try, you can't get the bad taste it's left in your mouth out.

So on Monday, you drag yourself to class to tell Skeeter the fateful worst, "That thing we had? Like, it's over. There's this boy at Blogspot who is, ya know, ALL THAT. He asked me to the dance and, well, I'm going."

As for you, Mr. Bill, in your fez and shiny AOL suit and all your blah-de-blah, you suck.

thisismary said...

"I  can't reconcile it with the fact that we have wonderful, passionate communities thriving in ad-supported pages in message boards,"  

--- What a load of manure!

When the message boards went to HTML format to facillitate a gazillion additional ads, the posters at "Free Parking" (one of the few boards that does not consist of 12 year olds cross-posting "did not" -- "did too" at each other)  went berserk.  Were it not for a back door into the old format, that board would be dead.  That said, message boards and chats ARE NOT the same thing as  journals.  Sigh.   Rant continued at my journal.  (should be posted by tomorrow morning)

globetrotter2u said...

Ya know this drivel is getting so old.

I really felt that by exposing the crappola on the advertisers themselves, then THEY would turn up the heat on aol to change things. No one listened to me when I said that and in fact some people criticized me.

The only way to change the assholes running aol is to have pressure put on them where it hurts. We cant do that. We are poor... We are just snot oozing and pus festering but they can deal with all that. (Sorry to be so graphic, but I didn't think Mrs. L would mind since Robbush started it.)

In the end, I'd rather hear Mrs. L tell us more about the guy with the huge ego that she put the phone down on...

I'ts way more interesing than this stuff which is getting real, real old.


screaminremo303 said...

Dear Bill:

Blow me.

psychfun said...

"We've learned a lot in the last two weeks... so thank you for your comments here and in email. We've heard loud and clear that you are passionate about what you write about in your blogs."

You all know what this letter is about don't you? It is another way of trying to stop what John & Joe were attempting to do with their previous posts...stop the complaining. "We've heard loud and clear..." Yep, so don't tell us anymore! Their way of saying "Enough." Excuse me but you do not get to say "enough". You should want to hear any and all comments any time someone has one. My background is Industrial Psychology & I just can't believe this. This man is a VP? HA!

How many of you are going to email him? Load his email. And that is my email to stop complaining to Joe & John. You think he will respond to each. HA! This is the problem, not enough will leave & new ones will come in that will not care & they know that. I'm not worried. This is not likely the last time they will make a decision like this. They will have more problems in the future if they keep this up. Over Christmas break I will be moving mine as well. Next week is the week before finals week so no time now but it will happen! If people didn't click on these ads then the companies would not find it profitable to pay to AOL to have their ads there. It is all up to the readers!

Hey, do you all remember "Minority Report"? That scene in the mall with the talking billboards...this world is going to be one big Ad. Babies will have ads on their clothes & strollers. Heck, pay me & I'll slap ads on my car etc. US Cellular Field...ha I remember our schools president joking out computer labs would not be named something like this. Right! I can just see it happening for schools & everything. Heck I think you can have a free wedding if you place the ads in a brochure I heard! The meal, plates, flowers etc. Just totally tacky just like AOL!

psychfun said...

"Advertising is an important part of how we make money, and we're not ashamed of that"

Wow! One wonders what else they would do if it meant they would make money!

floralilia said...

my comment there was this:


well Mr. Schreiner - if you were *truly* listening to our concerns and comments like you claim here -  

this letter would have had a completely different tone and content.

like - for one - our journals would be ad-free.  effective yesterday.

like - for two - there would have been a sincere apology and a few words about oh, I dunno - learning a valuable lesson about customer appreciation, and loyalty, and satisfaction..

like - for three - you would look forward to rebuilding the community with *us* -
and value our joined efforts to make it even better than it once was...

like - for four - if the martha stewart debacle taught you all anything - is that greed doesn't pay.

like - for five - bad marketing makes for bad PR and bad PR is not good for the company...or the shareholders.

Like - for six - the customer is always right.  Yah, remember that one?

there might be a few others in there that I missed -

and I'm sure my colleagues here will help me continue the list...

in the meantime bill - go back to your corporate napping.  

You still have dark circles under your eyes - and that probably explains why once again, you made a bad decision even worse, with this big stinking group hug of a post.

and don't worry - in case you fell asleep while reading this - I'll email you it too, just to be sure *you* were listening.

floralilia said...

ceo of love???

isn't that lovetrains claim to fame?

anarchitek said...

Translation:  "I make a lot of money here, so shut up and take this like the good children we expect you to be!  The advertisers do not like to hear a lot of negative comments about the perception and reception of their message, so you are rocking the apple cart!  We have total control, and we can lose 10 % or whatever number of you leave, and we can make up the revenue with new members, because WE ADVERTISE RELENTLESSLY.  It's what we do, because we all want to be millionaire CEO's some day, and there's nothing you can do about it!"

Think I got it pretty close?  I had to run it thru Bable-Fish several times before the phrasing was translated properly, but that's close enough for government work, and WE ALL KNOW the standard for that!  Bruce  

swibirun said...

I knew that I could count on Mrs. L for a laugh this morning.  Great interpretation services Mrs. L and Bruce!


judithheartsong said...

and what people don't realize is that it ain't over yet. They will continue to screw this journals community that they do not care at all about. Thank you for this post. I am exhausted and disgusted, and sick of getting a black eye for fighting for something I believe in.

ecori said...



jevanslink said...

Here's a great letter of reply to DOLLAR BILL from a great writer who left AOL for blogger.

A good read.  
Mrs. L

sunflowerkat321 said...

This letter made me sick.  Your comparison of the boards to the bus station and our journals to our private homes is probably the most accurate description I've heard.

They just don't get it....and probably never will.

njmom72 said...

Bravo...I couldn't have worded it better myself. :-)

lordofbutter said...

What a jackass that dude is. Condescending clown.

xzasporated1 said...

Bus station analogy was perfect.  You know, I thought that at 40 I would have paid enough dues NOT to be patronized by anyone.  This guy is a piece of work.  I actually feel sorry for Joe, having to answer to some dollar-craving corporate dude who truly must have lost his clue at the Love shack.

I see the fate of AOL Journals, which HQ obviously sees as nothing more than real estate.  There's a potload of empty sidebar space, just waiting to be rezoned.  But they're be "working on" zapping out those new bells and whistles, the same bells and whistles that have been common on other blogging platforms for awhile now.  AOL is not being innovative; it's playing catch-up.  


~~ jennifer

lab2401cfl said...

Mrs L, you hit the nail on the head.  Absoulutely love the analogy to the nasty slimy restroom.  Was that in a bus station or AOL headquarters?  I think I will send this page to dear ole Bill.  He's my favorite talking head now.
Auntie Lyn

pattboy92 said...

I love it, Mrs. L!


shaz19743 said...

Ive sent my email reply to Schreiners inbox in repsonse to his utter drivel as i have on previous occasions to other addresses given to complain to before in the hope that if everyone does this in volume it may make some sort of difference .
I wont hold my breath ...wish he would .

redsneakz said...

I'm glad that you've gotten over your shyness.  Keep working on it, you'll be a pretty forthright person.

I love it.  You're track-backed on my blog. :-)


jcgeorgiapeach said...

OooooWheee I love it!!!!!!!!!!  ~Peachy

mosie1944 said...

Mrs L... you are GOOD!

bluwave9 said...

All I heard from that letter was, "Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya".  


elleme2 said...

Touche', Mrs L!  Touche'!  A brilliant response.  I do hope you have also placed it where Bill S. (and maybe his own "higher ups") can't avoid seeing it.  Keep up the good work.

mutualaide said...

Bravo!  You say so beautifully what needs to be said.  

kristeenaelise said...

I would giggle like a school girl if you told me you e-mailed this to his bogus e-mail address.  At least his assistant will see it.  Maybe.

=) kris

jevanslink said...

I did email a link to this. And there's a link at Magic Smoke, too.  Mrs. l

gaboatman said...

Mrs. L
If I didn't have to sit to type this, I'd be giving you a standing ovation!  Thanks for speaking for all of us on this one!

bedazzzled1 said...

Oh good God...I am hysterically laughing at the remarks you made after each line. I am practically crying! You could not have nailed him any more precisely than you did. Kudos!