Bitly, the company best known for its link-shortening service of the same name, is trying to get its house back in order. A few weeks after The Verge reported the company was in a state of internal disarray following numerous departures, including that of former CEO Peter Stern, Bitly is trying to bounce back. Today, the company announced it's hired a new CEO, Mark Josephson, formerly a top executive at AOL's lagging local news network Patch. Josephson said in a statement on the Bitly blog that he joined Bitly because it "is positioned to add significant value — in the form of intelligence on top of its unique data set — to consumers, marketers and publishers."
"the footprint of Bitly is so large."
Bitly already offers some additional data gleaned from the links it shortens for its users, such number of total clicks on each. It also offers various additional products based on its link traffic, such as a Bitly Enterprise tool for businesses and a beta analytics tool called Realtime. So it remains to be seen what additional "intelligence" the company will seek to offer now that Josephson is in charge, and whether that will be enough to woo the users the company wants to reach. Josephson told The Verge that he starts at Bitly in a few weeks, so talk of new specific new products was still premature, but added: "We have great products right now, I'm not sure that they have been rationalized and optimized to their fullest extent. With more than 2 billion clicks on Bitly links across the web every month, the footprint of Bitly is so large. There's just so much opportunity."
Josephson pointed out this will be the fifth tech company he's worked for — he was previously CEO of a local media company called Outside.in, which sold to AOL and merged with Patch, and worked on the executive teams of About.com and ill-fated internet marketing company Seevast, which reportedly shut down earlier this year. "This is as good an opportunity as I've ever seen," Josephson said of Bitly. The company was spun out of the New York-based startup incubator Betaworks back in 2009, but has failed to catch on in a big way with consumers, especially as competition in the link-shortening space has increased: Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all introduced their own automatic link shorteners in recent years.
"This is as good an opportunity as I've ever seen."
Josephson's move also doesn't bode well for AOL's local news experiment Patch, a network of over 850 local websites, that has struggled to become profitable since AOL purchased it back in 2009. Patch has lurched back and forth between various different business models and content strategies while laying off hundreds of employees in the intervening multiple years, and losing Josephson seems to be another blow to its efforts. As a spokesperson for Patch told The Verge in a statement: "Patch has a deep and talented national sales team that continues to deliver results. We thank Mark for his contributions to Patch and wish him well as he embarks on a new chapter."
Ben Popper contributed to this report.