RealTime IT News

AOL Drives Plaxo Growth

AOL may be cutting its ties to part of its business and its workforce, but at least one partner is blossoming thanks to its AOL connection.

Plaxo, an online address book that allows users to keep their contacts up-to-date, has been growing rapidly since it signed a partnership with AOL last July.

The Web-based service provider hit the 10 million member mark in March and has been adding an additional 1 million members per month since.

The company's growth spurt is partly due to the viral nature of the service it offers. Each new member is able to invite his or her contacts to join Plaxo, so membership increases feed on themselves.

But according to Plaxo CEO Ben Golub, AOL has been a very important driver of growth, and there has been "tremendous uptake" of his company's service through the partnership with AOL.

He told internetnews.com that close to 50 percent of new AOL Triton members have signed up for Plaxo.

The basic Plaxo service is free, but the company also offers premium services that have deeper social-networking features.

"The more members we get from AOL, the more opportunities we get to upsell them," said Golub.

AOL has also helped drive Plaxo's overseas growth.

Over 40 percent of the company's users live outside the U.S., 18 percent of whom are in Europe.

And AOL  has helped Plaxo diversify its user base.

While still predominantly used by people in their mid-30s to late 40s, Plaxo has seen growth among both the very young and the very old.

That mirrors AOL's demographic.

Once known as the training wheels of the Internet, AOL still has a loyal base of older users who acclimated themselves to the Web thanks to AOL's walled garden version of the Internet.

And AOL also appeals to younger users who use its free networking services, such as Instant Messenger.

While AOL is a failing business to many, its users remain a loyal and attractive base.

The company revealed today that it averages 113 million unique monthly visitors and averages 153 page views per unique visitor per month.

"Those are some of the most engaged users on the Net in terms of page views and time spent online," noted Golub.

Golub said that AOL's new strategy will drive even more customers his company's way.

But it remains to be seen whether Plaxo's deal with survive the unpredictable forces of the eyeball-driven Internet business that AOL is seeking to become. Or the philosophy of whichever large company (Microsoft anyone?) acquires the AOL unit for itself.

"As AOL puts more emphasis on the audience part of its business and takes advantage of online trends, that will be a big benefit to us," said Golub.

Meanwhile, Plaxo is continuing to widen its breadth of social-networking tools.

Founders of HipCal, which Plaxo acquired earlier this spring, are now working out of Plaxo's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Plaxo promises to deliver new features revolving around calendar functions in the fall.