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Newly independent AOL to call itself Aol.'Aol.'

AOL, which used to be AOL Time Warner, which used to be America Online, is now going to be Aol — or Aol., with a dot, in its logo — as it begins new life on Dec. 9 as a spinoff from Time Warner, the company says.

Okay. Where to start?

The Internet wags are already way ahead of me, lobbing jokes such as: “AOL? Aol.? LOL!”

It's pretty easy to be cynical about the changes at AOL, or perhaps Aol. Things have gone downhill for the company pretty steadily since the epic, and epically disastrous, merger with Time Warner in 2000, a US$350 billion bet to create a new media giant. It never worked.

AOL got its name stripped off the combined company in 2003, because it was such a drag on Time Warner. A succession of chief executives — Jonathan Miller, Randy Falco and now former Google sales guru Tim Armstrong — have tried various ways to turn around the company, attempting to morph it from a dial-up Internet provider to an Internet advertising company and now a content company.

Yearly job cuts have come as regularly as Christmas. Ahead of next month's spinoff, AOL has offered buyouts to 2,500 employees, or one-third of its staff. The company is now much smaller than it once was, and now its logo is smaller, too.

The company hired big ad and research firms -- Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group's Wolff Olins agency -- to figure out what people thought of AOL and to craft a new logo. What they came up with was a variation on the historic AOL all-caps logo, moving to the up-and-down-style “Aol.” -- with a dot at the end, presumably in case people don't know it's an Internet company.

“Historically, brand identity has been monolithic and controlling, little more than stamping a company name on a product,” Karl Heiselman, chief executive of Wolff Olins, said in a statement. “AOL is a 21st century media company, with an ambitious vision for the future and new focus on creativity and expression, this required the new brand identity to be open and generous, to invite conversation and collaboration, and to feel credible, but also aspirational.”

Now, the company needs profits. Revenue and earnings at AOL continued to fall, with operating income down 50 percent compared with the third quarter of 2008, according to the quarterly report this month.

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