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AOL has been in the news a lot lately. And this week, the news wasn’t pretty despite a year’s worth of acquisitions and partnerships that are meant to strengthen AOL’s position in the marketplace. The news: AOL (NYSE: AOL) hit a new 52-Week low of $19 and announced it will lay off 20% of its staff.

So what’s going on at AOL? Turns out: a lot. Since Google alum, Tim Armstrong, took over AOL in April 2009, AOL has been making bold moves with a vision for being a premier destination of quality content. A recently leaked internal AOL document showed how AOL’s display advertising revenue was getting dwarfed by competitor Yahoo!. (Article “The AOL Way” was leaked on February 22, 2011.) The document laid out AOL’s strategy and basically admitted that they were sorely losing the portal wars for display advertising. Therefore, bold moves may be the only way for AOL to grow, gain relevancy among younger users, and start capitalizing on their investments in order to gain more ad revenue.

Here is a brief summary of some of the recent goings on at AOL:

1. AOL launched Project Devil and Pictela. Despite its satanic name (not loved by clients), Devil and Pictela are new display creative formats that attempt to bring in a level of content, interactivity and relevance to consumers without asking them to click off to another site. See http://corp.aol.com/2011/02/28/aol-s-project-devil-and-pictela-pushdown-premium-ad-formats-name/. These formats were recently heralded by the IAB as “rising stars.”

2. AOL launched PATCH – according to the New York Times, Patch “is meant to fill the void in areas where struggling local newspapers have cut back on reporting, but much of their writing and news gathering is not up to the standards of what consumers get from their traditional news sources.” Getting into the local content business appears like another bold move aimed at differentiating AOL. However, there has been a tremendous outcry that AOL is employing a sweat-shop like mentality in its handling of journalists. (See http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201011/1907/ and their Editor in Chief’s response: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201011/1909/).

3. AOL partnered with Everyday Health so that EDH provides all health content on AOL properties. Announced in January of 2011, the partnership replaces AOL Health content with  Everyday Health content. The  partnership will begin on April 1, 2011. While AOL’s strategy appears to be about delivering quality content (Patch, Huffington Post, etc.) to its users, it’s clearly stepping aside in the health and wellness space. From an advertising perspective, this leaves one less viable health site to consider which may make planning deals a bit easier (since AOL health traffic was never high) though may limit negotiation leverage as one less player is vying for ad dollars.

4. AOL purchased Huffington Post – This acquisition positions Arianna Huffington to lead the newly formed The Huffington Post Media Group which will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL Content, Including News, Tech, Women, Local, Multicultural, Entertainment, Video, Community, etc. Clearly, AOL is looking to bring in a younger, more dynamic audience. (According to Comscore, 60% of AOL users are 35+).

So will all these investments pay off? Wall Street isn’t sold, while we agency planners and buyers are intrigued. AOL continues to be a publisher partner on many media plans with some very strong results. Only time will tell if this new strategy will continue to grow its user base, bring in younger demos, and help AOL shore up more ad revenue.

According to a report issued by American Progress Action, the newly passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have a lot of health implications for US Hispanics. The following are some highlights of how the bill is attempting to improve health outcomes and care for this group, as well as some thoughts on how healthcare marketers can prepare their businesses to meet the Hispanic demographics’ needs.

The act will:

  • Expand health insurance coverage; Hispanics have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group within the United States. (A 2009 Gallup poll found that 41.7 percent of American Hispanics aged 18 and over lacked health insurance, compared to the national average of 16.0 percent and 11.6 percent of white Americans.)
  • Expand health coverage to as many people as possible and providing financial assistance to help those with lower incomes purchase coverage.
  • Expand access to community health centers, which could be valuable for underserved areas within the Hispanic community.
  • Focus on disease prevention and health promotion. Hispanic Americans currently without health insurance will be able to purchase coverage through health insurance exchanges, with sliding scale subsidies to help low- and moderate-income families.
  • Twenty-one percent of older Hispanics have diabetes compared to 14.3 percent of whites. Hispanic elders are much more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes due to poor diabetes control, and they are far less likely to receive pneumonia or flu shots or participate in cancer screening services. Better access to prevention and early interventions would help keep the Hispanic population healthier throughout their lives.
  • Insurance plans will be required to offer 100 percent coverage of approved preventive services such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and diabetes testing.
  • Half of Hispanics do not have a regular doctor, compared with only one-fifth of whites, and almost half of low-income Hispanics lack a usual source of care. PPACA’s emphasis on improving primary care will particularly benefit Hispanics.

For healthcare companies, millions of Hispanics Americans entering the health system from routine screenings, preventative care, to management of more serious health conditions (diabetes/cancer) will provide Rx and Insurance companies the opportunity to address the unique health and cultural needs. There will be an increased need for healthcare professionals that can speak Spanish and are aware of cultural expectations from Hispanic health seekers.

From websites, advertising, patient support materials available in Spanish to considering the importance of English-speaking bi-lingual caregivers for older Hispanics, Razorfish Health predicts that front runners in Hispanic marketing will benefit from strong brand loyalty from this group and unique opportunity to grow their business. The time to start developing Hispanic content and marketing efforts is NOW! (¡Ahora!)