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Markering Introduction Steve Case founded America Online (AOL) in pre-Internet days when the networking of various computer systems was rather informal and difficult for all but the highly computer-literate to accomplish. His goal was to make accessing these networks easy enough for anyone to manage. Though AOL has changed dramatically since those days, ease of use has remained a primary consideration in all changes visible to the user. Much maligned by the more "serious" services (and their subscribers) in the past, AOL has risen to be the industry leader despite challenges and the image of being the J.R. Ewing of the Internet, the provider everyone "loves to hate." Advertisers complain of AOL's dictatorial policies, yet with more than 21 million subscribers (Anonymous, 2000), AOL is an advertising venue that they dare not ignore. Current Situation and Background All large organizations today have vision and mission statements, but only the most successful actually adhere to them. Many organizations sport rather cryptic mission statements, or they put great effort into devising one and then never consult it again. AOL appears to be cognizant of both its mission and vision statements in every addition it makes to its service. America Online's Vision: To build an interactive medium that improves the lives of people and benefits society as no other medium before it. America Online's Mission: To build a global medium as central to people's lives as the telephone or television... and even more valuable (America Online, 1999; p. 34). Corporate strategy is clear. Mission and vision statements reveal gross strategy; investment reports indicate that more narrow strategy also is effective. Several advertisers have complained about AOL's policies in the past, but the factors of which they complain are those that keep AOL's management – rather than the phenomenal growth of the Internet – in control of the company's destiny and its attainment of its goals. Senior management misjudged the response to its offer of flat-rate charges for unlimited use, and the company even suffered class-action lawsuits after their access systems were overwhelmed in many areas. Seeking the greatest number of subscribers and offering to highlight advertisers willing to pay for AOL's assistance is a strategy that ensures AOL's continued financial good health. AOL's functional strategy of being indispensable to subscribers is one that can work to ensure the company's continued growth. Already, AOL has more content than does any other ISP (Anonymous, 2000), and it seeks only to grow in scope.

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