If you are an internet user of a certain age, we are sure that you remember AOL CDs very well. It was quite an aggressive marketing plan, that is for sure.

AOL wanted to make sure that their internet service reached the masses and that’s why they sent out all of those CDs. However, there is no denying that the bombardment plan worked like a charm.

Photo: Flickr/Ivy Mike License: CC BY 2.0

According to The Atlantic, AOL went from having a subscriber base of 200,000 to 25 million subscribers very quickly.

This is the part where people start to wonder what the cost of this gimmick was. “Over $300 million. At one point, 50% of the CDs produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it. We were logging in new subscribers at the rate of one every six seconds,” said Jan Brandt, according to TechCrunch.

Photo: Flickr/Jason Riedy License: CC BY 2.0

As the former chief marketing officer for AOL, Brandt is uniquely qualified to shed light on the situation. AOL’s CEO during this time was Steve Case and he is also providing background information.

“Case says that he doesn’t remember the total amount spent on the discs specifically, but says that in the early 1990s, AOL’s goal was to spend 10 percent of lifetime revenue to get a new subscriber. He says that since the average subscriber life was around 25 months, revenue was about $350 off of each of these users. So he guesses they probably spent about $35 per user on things such as these discs,” TechCrunch shared.

Photo: Flickr/Jeramey Jannene License: CC BY 2.0

From the looks of it, the plan worked from a financial standpoint, though. If you do the math on the numbers that Case had to offer, things went swimmingly. AOL hit its goal on the head, spending $35 per user and getting back $350 in revenue in the process. As the old saying goes, you have to spend money if you want to make money.

AOL changed our lives forever when it made the internet more readily accessible to everyone at home. Now that we reside in a universe where we can carry around devices with internet access in our pockets, that may not seem so wild. For those who were actually there to see the shift firsthand? It was a moment in time that we will never forget.

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