There was a time when AOL seemed to rule the internet. In fact, from time to time, I still hear the old familiar notification “You’ve got mail” from someone. And who hasn’t seen at least a joke or two about those good old FREE TRIAL CDs that AOL used to send to us in the mail almost weekly back in the ’90s? (Tech Crunch posted an article about how much the company spent on sending those out. It’s here for your reading pleasure!).
I personally don’t have anything good or bad to say about AOL as a company or service because I quite frankly never used anything of theirs that I can recall. But I always knew about them – they just seemed to always “be there”. And then, not so much. From time to time, I would read an article in which AOL would be mentioned, and I would actually be surprised to hear the name.
Then their Roku channel was announced – On.
In order to correctly review this Roku channel, I think it’s only fair to AOL to explain what On actually is – it’s a network of content, from Tech Crunch, to Huffpost Live and Moviefone. AOL has been busy expanding this network of content, and I for one applaud their effort. I think this is definitely a great direction they have chosen to take, and they even have On apps for both Android and IOS devices.
On’s Roku channel home screen is a familiar grid layout broken into the usual categories – news, entertainment, tech, etc. Navigation is simple and familiar as well – simply choose your story of interest and play starts. And that, for me, is where the trouble starts. Upon launch of a news story or two it becomes immediately clear what the AOL On channel for Roku is – an online news video aggregator. For some, this may not be an issue because On truly is grabbing stories from multiple sources – primarily Newsy, Huffpost and Tech Crunch. However, the issue I have found is that with some clips I actually only got a partial report that ended with “for more, visit [insert news website].com”. This, to say the least, is extremely annoying especially when you’re engrossed in a story, only to be told to go to your computer to visit a website to see the rest. If I wanted to do that I would have already been at my computer, after all.
And then there are the commercials. I understand that ad revenue is the best way for companies to develop and provide their streaming channels for free, but considering the afore mentioned partial clip situation, throwing in commercials only feels like salt in the wound.
Lastly, there is the issue of the actual content that On is delivering. On grabs a huge percentage of its content from Huffpost (which actually makes sense, seeing as they own it), which puts an obviously huge slant on much of the reporting. While researching for this entry, I found several other reviewers voice this same concern, as well as a couple On mobile app users say the same. Having a slant isn’t something I’m necessarily criticizing AOL for. After all, the “big guys” like Fox and NBC do so as well with their streaming channels. But with On seemingly attempting to position itself as a true, all around news aggregator, having such a slant quickly makes that position null and void.
Tonight on HuffPost Live, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin phonetically pronounced the River Thames as “thames”.
In the end, I can recommend AOL On if you enjoy primarily Huffpost and Tech Crunch content, though the more special interest type categories such as Food, Travel and Autos offer a bit more variety.The commercials aren’t a huge negative factor, especially in today’s world where they are pretty much everywhere anyway. But the partial clips can get really aggravating.
Have you checked out AOL On? Please share your thoughts in the comments!