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Feb 22nd 2012
"People react to amazing stories," says Neil Katz, executive news editor, AOL.com, and "our job is to entertain, to educate, to make people laugh, to cry, and to enrich their lives."
Katz joined the company nine months ago from CBSNews.com, where he was the executive editor. Since joining, Katz and his team have doubled the volume of content on AOL.com and are now updating the page on a minute-by-minute basis.
We recently sat down with Katz to learn more about the editorial approach to AOL.com, which-according to comScore -- reaches 13 million daily and is one of the main properties of AOL. Neil describes AOL.com's goal as "continuing to develop our relationship with the American public by making our stories even more engaging."
So, what's the key to AOL.com's approach? "We're driving the social conversation. The audience is the twelfth man on the field," says Katz. "People are no longer content to be passive recipients of information and news. They're active contributors, and our level of social engagement is off the charts. We're a social media rocket ship."
When he first joined AOL, Katz's immediate task was to re-energize his staff of 17 editors, which Katz describes as a group of the most professional team players in online news.
AOL.com's readership peak is lunchtime to five p.m. as people logon to catch-up on news and check on their AOL email. The editorial team starts each day early by researching what's going on around the nation and the world, to connect people to the "amazing stories that are really happening." Katz describes their approach as great storytelling "from the mom who's fighting to keep her family safe to the superstar that's fighting to keep her name out of the news." The Huffington Post is now fully integrated into AOL.com and according to Katz, "provides readers with around a thousand pieces of content a day."
What drives Neil Katz? His favorite stories are ones that say something about America. His personal favorite is the original ten-part text and video series about severely wounded soldiers and their struggle to make their lives whole again after war. The videos were viewed more than a million times. One of AOL.com's most popular stories was a recent feature honoring the 17 American Navy Seals who were killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down during a night raid in Afghanistan. The tragedy happened just two months after the Seal's successful bin Laden mission.
"I love telling amazing stories," says Katz. At CBSNews.com, he helped make the site one of the fastest growing digital news destinations through the development of new sections and blogs, from health to entertainment. Katz also played a role in the creation and successes of new properties, most notably, Crimesider, now a leader in true-crime reporting. Prior to CBSNews.com, Katz field produced for CBS television and was a freelance journalist for the New YorkTimes' online video unit, PBS, the Star Ledger and others. He's reported from India, Iran and Vietnam. When he's not orchestrating AOL.com, Neil is passionate about photography and global travel.
What is Katz's vision for AOL.com? "At a time when print and broadcast news outlets are ducking for cover, AOL.com and the Huffington Post are surging ahead. We're pioneering new forms of journalism for a huge audience, and our goal is to bring it to the world. We measure our progress if the readers come tomorrow."
Follow Neil on Twitter at @neilkatz and http://www.neilkatzphoto.com.