I love this post from Recode's Peter Kafka, who points out that AOL's solid Q2 numbers aren't really based on its high-profile media properties like The Huffington Post, but rather the dial-up business, which has been minting pure profit for years. The big trick? Increasing prices even as subscriber numbers fall: instead of just over 3 million people paying $18 in 2011, this quarter 2.34 million people paid just over $20. It's safe to assume that most of these people don't even know they're paying, and probably don't need to pay AOL for access, especially if they have broadband service from their local cable or phone companies.
On the flip side, it's also likely that a lot of those people can't get broadband service where they live — and mobile broadband costs far more than $20 a month. You can also draw a straight line from the continued existence of AOL's dial-up business to our current far-reaching debate about broadband: dial-up services were once fiercely competitive because everyone in the country had phone service and the phone companies themselves were prohibited from interfering with the data traveling on their lines. Applying those same rules to broadband is the heart of the net neutrality debate, while the FCC has been working to reform its Universal Service programs to expand broadband service along with phone service in underserved areas.
Until all that gets settled, AOL's still just making bank, though.