It's like a splashy celebrity drama: according to PaidContent, AOL subsidiary TMZ.com will no longer use AOL to sell its ads and instead will be taking those operations in-house. Television ads will be handled through Telepictures, the Time Warner division that teamed up with AOL to launch TMZ in the first place.
The reasoning, according to PaidContent, is that the Hollywood news and gossip site--which was the first to break the news of Michael Jackson's death--has simply gotten too big for AOL's Platform-A technology. TMZ has been one of AOL's foremost success stories of late, and has served as an indicator of how the once-mighty tech company could reinvent itself as a successful digital publishing power under the auspices of new CEO Tim Armstrong.
This could be a messy breakup on the ad sales front. AOL is in the midst of being spun off formally from Time Warner, with which it became joined at the hip in a massive 2000 merger. Platform-A has gone through one management change after another, and though it has significant reach across the Web, still struggles for legitimate industry cred when it comes to both Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue.
Losing a major player like TMZ will be another blow to Platform-A's image. The bigger question will be whether, as PaidContent suggests, TMZ itself may spin off from AOL--something that seems ludicrous, given AOL's plans to be a digital-age Conde Nast or Time Inc.
But things might actually be simpler: as a PaidContent commenter noted, TMZ might be hunting for advertisers willing to work with content a little bit racier than the family-friendly AOL norm. You know, like hard-hitting investigative reports about just how see-through Megan Fox's outfit was at some L.A. nightclub the other night.