To some people, the news that Verizon had bought AOL for $4.4 billion was probably pretty surprising. For one thing, AOL is still around? And it does more than just pump out millions of those startups discs every day? Apparently yes, it does. These days, though, AOL is focused more on the content creation business, which is the fun, corporate way of saying that AOL pays people to make things, and then AOL puts ads on those things so it can make money off of them. It’s this revolutionary system of making things and putting ads on them that got Verizon interested—and not the city-sized warehouses of leftover startup discs.
Variety explains that Verizon made the deal so it could use AOL to create “the next generation of over-the-top video for mobile users,” which unfortunately has nothing to do with arm wrestling, rock music, or anything else traditionally associated with the phrase “over-the-top.” In the thrilling world of content creation, “over-the-top” refers to, essentially, video or audio that is distributed without a cable company or whatever controlling it, like Hulu or Netflix. Those sites have their own video content (as does AOL), and you don’t have to go through anyone but Hulu or Netflix to get to it. Or something like that.
The point of all of this is that Verizon wants to get the people using its phones or whatever to start accessing more over-the-top video directly from Verizon, because that “will fuel demand for faster mobile Internet speeds from Verizon Wireless.” In other words, Verizon is going to offer you so many exciting things to watch on your phone, that you’ll want to pay Verizon for faster download speeds on your phone. It’s a little bit like if BP were to buy a car company, and then it started making cars that were so cool that you wanted to buy more gas from BP. Except there’s also a bunch of billboards advertising for stuff that pays money to BP on the way to the gas station, so it’s getting you from all angles. Is this a little vicious and manipulative? Sure, but at least now there’s nothing surprising about it.