AOL, if you can believe it, breaks traffic records

The service formerly known as America Online is, to be blunt about it, more popular than you are. Yes, this is still 2008.

AOL may have driven off some very loyal users with the announcement last month that it was ditching its Journals and Hometown properties, but blog-style sites are still clearly working for the service. Its "programming sites" are breaking their own traffic records, and the company overall reports its 21st quarter of year-over-year growth in unique visitors.

Even the most rabid AOL-bashers may be contributing to the tallies, since a number of the service's most successful properties don't really scream little-yellow-running-guy. Among the sites you may have forgotten AOL owns: Gizmo mecca Engadget, gossip purveyor TMZ, and Quantum of Solace locator Moviefone.

Some of those sites are, in fact, leading their niches according to the most recent comScore Media Metrix traffic reports. AOL's number-ones for October, and the audiences they target, were Asylum (men), BlackVoices (African Americans), MapQuest (the directionally challenged), StyleList (the sartorially challenged), AOL Music, and AOL Television.

Overall, AOL's repudiation of its ancient walled-garden strategy seems to be working out. Design changes allowing direct links to non-AOL content, especially social-networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the AOL-owned Bebo), have broken down some inside-vs.-outside thinking; and the ability to access one's Yahoo mailbox from inside AOL Mail has garnered favorable comment, though doing nothing to quell the rumors that AOL and Yahoo are getting more-than-friendly at the corporate level.

In related news, AOL Webmail had 3.5 billion page views last month, a record for the service. The record-breaking unique-visitors number for the programming sites was 54.3 million, a 7% year-over-year increase, and the company also says that total minutes spent on AOL.com reached an all-time high in October, though no final number was revealed.

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