strategy and business

The Thought Leader Interview: Tim Armstrong

Tim Armstrong works in an open-plan office that sits at an extremely busy and often cacophonous intersection near Union Square in Manhattan. As the CEO of Oath, the unit of telecommunications giant Verizon that houses AOL, Yahoo, and the Huffington Post, among other brands, Armstrong is a key player in — and theoretician of — the convergence of content, mobile communications, and advertising.

At age 47, Armstrong has played a key role in assembling many of the online world’s largest and most significant platforms. He ran the U.S. advertising business at Google when it acquired YouTube in 2006. After joining AOL as CEO in 2009, he acquired the Huffington Post and ultimately sold AOL to Verizon in 2015. In 2017, he engineered Verizon’s US$4.5 billion purchase of Yahoo, uniting two giants of the early Internet under a single banner: Oath.

Armstrong is now leading the powerhouses formed in the era of dial-up Internet and flip phones into the futuristic world of 5G, voice-assisted commerce, algorithm-generated advertising, and NFL games streaming on phones.

In the spring, Armstrong sat down with strategy+business to discuss the rapid evolution of the media and telecommunications industries and the dawning of a mobile consumer economy.

S+B: There’s a new round of convergence that’s been happening. And you’re obviously at the center of that. Why are telecommunications companies investing more in content and media assets? In the past, that has not necessarily turned out well.

ARMSTRONG: If you go 10 or 20 years back, the consumer had clear swim lanes. If I was reading a newspaper, I was reading a newspaper. If I was watching television, I was watching television. Mobile’s been the single largest driver of consolidation, I’m going to guess, in human history. I don’t want to be too hyperbolic, but it is the first time consumers have one device and one connection to almost 100 percent of their intake. So the entire swimming pool of telco, content, movie theaters, and newspapers can be put on one connection, one device, one human interface. And by the way, people like it. So I think that’s the driver. Looking through the lens of the consumer, we could be in a world where we end up with singular large interfaces controlling the entire experience.

: So, given that, what’s the strategy for Oath, and what does success look like over the next two

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