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Another goal of Armstrong’s is to speed AOL’s ability to innovate. He’s made Tuesdays into “product meeting days,” with teams behind several different AOL products or services – say, AOL Autos or the company’s e-mail service – discussing ideas with executives. Armstrong says lower-level employees now get a greater say in these sessions.

“We don’t always need management to present what’s happening at the company,” he said.

The impending spinoff from Time Warner also appears to be changing the atmosphere. Bill Wilson, head of the company’s MediaGlow unit, which includes Web sites and blogs such as WalletPop and Engadget, said employees are beginning to feel they have more influence over AOL’s destiny.

“That’s much harder in a conglomerate than in a focused company,” he said.

Even so, it remains to be seen how far enthusiasm and a new focus can carry AOL. The company is in a fierce battle for Internet users with the likes of Google and Yahoo Inc., not to mention upstarts such as Facebook and Twitter.

Last fall, AOL tried to innovate by creating a way for users to view outside content, including e-mail from Yahoo and Google, from within the bounds of AOL.com. But the brand is not widely associated with what’s new and cool online.

Its Web sites do get plenty of traffic, though: AOL’s various Web properties averaged about 107 million unique U.S. visitors each month during the second quarter. That ranked fourth behind Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.

“They’ve got opportunities,” said David Joyce, an analyst with Miller Tabak & Co. “So let’s see what they make of it.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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