AOL Tries to Revive with Digg-Like Content

In a bid to win more audience to bolster its new advertising-focused strategy, AOL is re-launching as a collaborative news site, much like the popular The beta site launched late last night in advance of a July 1 official debut.

“It’s kind of the next step in the evolution of social media sites,” Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesperson, told ClickZ News. will aggregate headlines and videos in 30 different content categories, from Art & Design to Pets to Sex to Women. All of the content is submitted by users, whose votes on stories help determine how prominently they’re featured on the page. Users also may tag stories, comment on them, and build a social network of friends with whom they share content. Because of the variety of topics covered, AOL hopes to attract a mainstream audience to participate. Many of the current social media sites have had a technology focus and have aggregated the early adopter crowd.

The site also adds an editorial layer, in contrast to many social media sites. The company has hired eight full-time journalists and 15 part-time staffers to act as “anchors.” They will be able to tweak placement, highlighting a deserving story that hasn’t gotten much attention. They’ll also do original reporting to add context to existing headlines, such as debunking incorrect stories or updating them with more current information.

The idea for the transformation came from Jason Calacanis, who joined AOL with last year’s acquisition of his Weblogs Inc. blog network. As a part of his leadership of the effort, Calacanis takes on a new title, general manager of Netscape. He remains SVP at AOL and CEO of Weblogs, Inc.

At launch, will have five ad slots that are compliant with IAB standards, including 728 x 90 leaderboards, 300 x 250 rectangles and 160 x 600 wide skyscrapers. The company is also offering an additional unit on its “power user” version of the site, for people utilizing wide screen monitors. Those individuals will receive a special 1500 x 100 leaderboard.

“It gives the opportunity to present a lot of content in one unit,” explained Weinstein.

At launch, the new will carry advertising that had been set to run on the old, which was a more traditionally-programmed portal with a variety of content areas.

Weinstein said currently has monthly traffic of more than 10 million unique users, which will give the fledgling site a boost. Though AOL doesn’t plan a formal off-site marketing campaign for, the company will promote each channel in relevant content areas across the AOL network.

This isn’t AOL’s first attempt to take advantage the Netscape brand, which had wide currency in the early days of the Internet. In 2003, it launched a discounted dial-up service with the Netscape brand.

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