1. Hurricane DanFormer CBS ( CBS) anchorman Dan Rather stormed back into the news this week. Rather
2. Mailing It InAOL is ready to get mail at an exciting new address. The struggling Time Warner ( TWX) unit rolled out a host of changes this week aimed at building its lagging Internet advertising business. AOL realigned its ad network into a new entity called Platform A, which the company promises "will offer advertisers access to the most sophisticated targeting and measurement tools available in the marketplace." AOL also set a distribution agreement with Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and moved its headquarters to New York from Dulles, Va. "New York City is the center of advertising," said AOL chief Randy Falco, "so it makes perfect sense to locate our corporate headquarters here." It really does, though naysayers might dwell on the timing. Years ago AOL was the pioneer in the Internet access business. Its "You've got mail" slogan became a familiar catchphrase and the title of a popular movie. But for all its success, AOL failed to quickly respond to the rapid expansion of Net advertising. That cleared the way for the rise of Yahoo! ( YHOO) and, of course, Google ( GOOG). Even though its rivals' gains long ago relegated AOL to the status of mere curiosity, execs continue to labor under the impression that they're on the cutting edge. "With these changes," Time Warner operating chief Jeff Bewkes said, "Randy Falco, Ron Grant and their team have positioned AOL to benefit fully from the trends that are reshaping the online advertising business and to expand AOL's leadership in it." AOL has got mail, but what it needs is a clue. Dumb-o-Meter score: 88. How does AOL plan to "grow its advertising business and increase the size and engagement of its worldwide audience"? Why, in part by "right-sizing the company's cost structure," of all things.
3. Circuit City SlickersCircuit City ( CC) short-circuited again. Shares of the Richmond, Va., home-electronics retailer tumbled 16% to a 52-week low Thursday after the company posted its latest
4. Hitting the WallNew York Times Co. ( NYT) tore down a short-lived subscription wall. The New York-based newspaper publisher said Wednesday it will stop charging for online access to its columnists and news archives. The move came two years to the day after the Times rolled out a widely questioned plan to charge $50 annually for those features as part of an offering called TimesSelect. Some skeptics wondered at the time whether the Times would succeed in getting readers to pay for columns, though the company brushed off those worries. "This is a great new product," the company said back in September 2005. "TimesSelect provides our readers with unique access to some of the newspaper's most influential and popular columnists as well as a way for members to communicate with the columnists. It also opens the door to one of the world's most extensive newspaper archives in an affordable way." Many readers declined to open the door, however. The Times said TimesSelect "certainly met and exceeded our goals," but the paid subscriber rolls flattened out this year at around 227,000. The company, which has been hit hard by a downturn in newspaper advertising, concluded it risked surrendering valuable online ad revenue by continuing the service. But it's not that trying TimesSelect was a mistake. No, just as rolling out TimesSelect was an exciting and uplifting moment, so was consigning the little-used service to the scrap heap. "Advertisers see the enormous value in making our site open and free to everyone," the company said Wednesday. "With the removal of the pay wall, the audience potential at NYTimes.com, already the No. 1 newspaper Web site in the United States, is vast." As is the opportunity for more mealy-mouthed corporate-speak. Dumb-o-Meter score: 82. "Because of online users' growing reliance on search in order to navigate the Web," a statement said Wednesday, "NYTimes.com expects to see a substantially increased number of unique users referred to and accessing the site once the pay wall is gone."