Verizon/AOL: What to Tell Your Boss

Verizon is acquiring AOL for $4.4 billion in cash. You are going to be asked about it today. Here are some probable outcomes (in no particular order). Pick the one you believe and speak with authority. Good luck.

The Party Line

Verizon is buying AOL because of its video tech stack. Tim Armstrong will continue to run the organization. Verizon will now have a powerful online/mobile advertising platform that has been growing steadily under Tim's leadership. The amount of $4.4 billion is a fair price. Most people think Verizon will jettison the content assets (handicap that as you will).

Snark line: The acquisition is pending a satisfactory 1,000 hour free trial period.

The Contrarian Position

According to the NY Times, Verizon bought $700 million of programmatic advertising EBITDA for $4.4 billion suggesting that it is incapable of building anything like an ad business internally and conceding that (even though billions of devices that do not support display or mobile advertising are coming online in the next five years) the regulated part of its business cannot or will not be allowed to grow at an acceptable rate.

Snark line: Verizon and AOL are now the two leading names in dial-up connectivity!

The Doomsday Scenario

AOL has built an advertising tech stack that is optimized to sell display advertising - the most untrusted, least effective form of advertising currently available. AOL's ad services business is growing at a fantastic rate and all the smart people at Verizon think that advertising is the future. Verizon has seriously overpaid for an ad network that is not adapted for the very near-term trend of context-dependent messaging. This will fail miserably because the display business is all but over.

Snark line: This will be the second time AOL will be part of the worst merger in history.

My Opinion

Verizon needs a large-scale, fully functional, data-driven content distribution platform and it needs it now. AOL's tech stack is only part of a bigger strategy to quickly build out and acquire the capability to leverage Verizon's first-party data. Verizon is nowhere near done acquiring assets to help it realize its strategic requirement to turn information into action for advertisers and consumers alike. The price of $4.4 billion is the right price for this acquisition or Verizon would not have paid it. AOL's content assets are helpful but could easily be spun off.

Snark line: 220 million payments of $19.99 a month.

Clearly there is much more to this story than I can cover today. I'd love to hear your opinion. Send me an email or tweet @shellypalmer. I'd tell you to call me, but you can't - I'm using my modem to connect.

I'm the Managing Director of the Digital Media Group at Landmark|ShellyPalmer, a tech-focused investment banking and advisory firm specializing in M&A, financings, and strategic partnerships. You may also know me as Fox 5 New York's on-air tech expert. Follow me @shellypalmer or visit for more info.