Mon, 17 Jan 2000

The Time Warner-AOL merger

Everything about the $165 billion takeover of Time Warner by America Online is big. AOL is the largest Internet company. Time Warner is the largest media and entertainment company. Their proposed marriage will be the largest corporate merger in history. The implications of this merger are big too, for the way stocks are valued, for the way information services reach consumers, and perhaps for the way entertainment, politics and journalism evolve in a 21st-century corporate environment.

The challenges that these big, multifaceted companies represent for journalism are just now coming into focus. For decades journalists, readers and viewers have been coming to grips with the concentration of ownership in newspaper chains and networks. In that environment, maintaining a wall between advertising and news departments has worked well. But building walls among the multiple compartments of these new information, entertainment and marketing giants may not be so simple. (Steve) Case (AOL's chairman) said he was teaching (Gerald) Levin (Time Warner's chairman) about "Internet time" and Mr. Levin was teaching him about journalistic tradition. That is an interchange that will have to take place not just in their company, but all across a media world that is being reshaped more rapidly than anyone could have predicted.

-- The New York Times