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After Gravity Acquisition, Luke Beatty Becomes AOL Brand Group's Product Head

Beatty is best known for creating Associated Content, bought by Yahoo in 2010.

Luke Beatty, the well-known entrepreneur hired in August by AOL to head its overall strategic partnership efforts, has been promoted to head of product for AOL Brand Group.

Beatty is best known for creating Associated Content, a crowdsourcing content platform bought by Yahoo in 2010 for $90 million.

As I noted previously about Associated Content: “Its first investor was … drum roll … AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Another adorkable fact: Beatty and Armstrong were also college roommates, and lived together after they graduated.”

He is moving to the job after shepherding AOL’s acquisition of personalization startup Gravity, whose 40-person team will report to him.

His initial job at AOL had been focused on thinking about outside alliances in a company-wide way, and instead has pushed down the efforts into the individual properties and business units.

Most recently before AOL, Beatty was managing director at Techstars, a startup accelerator. Before that, he was a VP at Yahoo, where he ran the business for the consumer properties group. Under CEO Marissa Mayer, Yahoo had been trying to get Beatty to return.

Beatty, who had been reporting to chief analytics officer Tim Lemmon, will now report to AOL Brand Group CEO Susan Lyne.

Here is her rather well-written internal email to staff about about Beatty’s new job:

Dear Team,

Over the last few months, we’ve thought long and hard about the best way to create a more product-driven culture, one that respects brand-centric teams while driving an ambitious product roadmap for the Brand Group as a whole. Org design is an important element of this but we all know that success starts with a strong leader — and to that end I am very happy to announce that Luke Beatty has been named Head of Product, AOL Brand Group, effective immediately.

This is a new role within the BG and it allows us to consolidate a number of network-wide product initiatives under Luke’s leadership: content that will power our 2014 distribution goals; a contributor platform inspired by the Lifestyle team’s successful contributor network; new content platforms like Mini, which launched at CES last week; development of new content management systems; and personalization of our content offerings. There are many interlocking dependencies here that will benefit from common goals, increased communication, and a clear reporting structure, with James Commons, Peter Rojas, Ryan Block, Oscar Kafati, and Joel Burns all reporting to Luke.

Additionally, Mike Manos and his team of engineers will now report to Luke. Mike’s team joined the Brand Group last year when engineering resources were transferred to the businesses they served. About half of the group went directly to Mapquest, Search, and — businesses whose scale and unique characteristics required autonomous product/engineering teams; the rest remain in Mike’s org today, including the desktop and mobile teams that support the rest of our brands, the AMP team, Quality Assurance, Testing, and the Development Labs team. Mike and Luke have spent a lot of time talking through options for fielding the tech organization more efficiently and effectively and I know they are both excited about the opportunities ahead.

I believe, as do Luke, Tim Lemmon, and Mike Manos, that brand teams need to work as integrated units and, to that end, brand Product Managers will continue to report to their GMs. However, they will also dotted line report into Luke to insure that product roadmaps are aligned, engineering resources are deployed effectively and that, where it makes sense, development work is leveraged across brands. Luke will be sending out a note to the groups that will report directly to him, and also to the product and engineering teams that will dot into him. Luke himself will report to me for all consumer-facing products (e.g. Reader, Mini) and to Tim Lemmon for platforms that support the Brand Group and AOL, Inc.

This is a big year for us. As Tim Armstrong said in his New Year’s Eve email, we are entering 2014 off a very solid 2013 where we delivered our first full-year of growth in eight years. That’s a huge achievement. But to reach the goal Tim set for 2014 — to go from being a company that is growing to a growth company — we need to commit to accelerated product development and product excellence. I’m confident that Luke’s appointment is a giant step in that direction.

Please join me in congratulating Luke!


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