AOL Plans Marketing Blitz

America Online is planning a massive marketing starting Monday to promote its latest software for the proprietary service, v4.0.

In its first major marketing push in almost two years, AOL, the No. 1 online service, will promote version 4.0 through magazine inserts, cereal boxes and gas stations.

Although the software has been available to current subscribers via download since December, getting the disks out to consumers through school cafeterias, catalog orders and mailings will help AOL gain thousands of first-time subscribers, analysts said.

Bloomberg News quoted one analyst as saying that company will add between 750,000 and 1 million subscribers for each of the next few quarters, up from 665,000 new members for its fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30.

Spending on the marketing blitz will raise AOL’s marketing costs to more than $120 million for its current fiscal first quarter, said the analyst. The company is hoping to attract first-time Internet users with the software, said spokeswoman Ann Brackbill.

AOL will begin a television and radio advertising campaign on Oct. 5, while the disk promotion will begin on Monday, said Jan Brandt, AOL president of marketing. The company declined to specify how many millions of disks it will mail out, the cost of the campaign or projections for subscriber growth.

Version 4.0 is free and includes 100 free hours of usage. Subscribers pay a monthly $21.95 fee for the service after that.

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