VIENNA, VA. — A source close to AOL's upcoming layoffs has shared numbers exclusively with Valleywag. The expected body count? 4,000 — a third of the estimated 12,000-person staff of the pain-wracked Internet giant. (Update: In a companywide email, CEO Randy Falco now says 2,000 employees out of a shrunken staff of 10,000 will be laid off.) The Dulles, Va. headquarters alone will see 400 jobs eliminated. Member Services, the organization responsible for AOL's rapidly defecting dialup customers, may get cut by as much as 90 percent. A data center in Reston, Va. is closing, with the facility up for sale, and another one in nearby Manassas could be on the block in the future. As deep as those cuts go, however, they may not be all. Remember the old adage "Measure twice, cut once?" Don't worry — neither do AOL CEO Randy Falco and COO Ron Grant.
Falco and Grant, of course, run AOL in name only. Chaos and rumor are really the ones in charge. Having misjudged the extent to which they need to slash AOL's payroll, Falco and Grant may be preparing to follow tomorrow's widely expected layoffs with another round in December.
Not out of mercy, as Silicon Alley Insider seems to suggest, but out of sheer disorganization. Some departments, in the midst of one of the Internet giant's permanent-seeming reorganizations, have pleaded for more time in figuring out where to cut staff. Programming is one area on the bubble; despite the edge AOL has built in developing original content like the Live 8 concerts, largely under prior programming chief Kevin Conroy, some say that under the new regime, with Bill Wilson in charge, the department will be put on "maintenance mode."
Relatively safe — for now, at any rate:
- Advertising sales Save for some rationalization as Advertising.com, Tacoda, and other groups get merged into the new Platform A unit, this area's seen as a strength for AOL.
- Products Email will get more attention.
- Recent acquisitions AOL's collected a number of interesting startups like Truveo in video search and Userplane in widgets, but it hasn't done much with them. Expect that to change.
That's the good news, small as it is. The bad news? Uncertainty and fear, the true bosses of AOL, will continue to reign until December.