AOL Buys HuffPo for $315 Million

AOL has bought the Huffington Post. But, really, it's the other way around: HuffPo has taken over AOL.

AOL has bought the Huffington Post. But, really, it’s the other way around: HuffPo has taken over AOL.

NYT goes with the unintentionally ironic headline “Betting on News, AOL Is Buying The Huffington Post

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company’s largest acquisition since it was separated from Time Warner in 2009.

The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company’s other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

[…]

AOL’s own news Web sites like Politics Daily and Daily Finance are likely to disappear when the deal is completed, and many of the writers who work for those sites will become Huffington Post writers, according to people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not to be identified discussing plans that are still being worked out.

Why “unintentionally ironic”?  Because HuffPo is not and never has been a “news” site. It started as a political commentary site featuring celebrity posters and evolved into a gigantic content farm built mostly on salacious celebrity gossip and weird stories.  As of 7 Eastern this morning, here are HuffPo’s most popular stories:

And, no, that’s not an aberration.  Here’s a screencap from August 31, 2010:

And one from August 25, 2009:

TechCrunch’s Paul Carr, now part of the HuffPo-AOL empire, thinks it’s brilliant:

Arianna Huffington’s genius is to churn out enough SEO crap to bring in the traffic and then to use the resulting advertising revenue – and her personal influence – to employ top class reporters and commentators to drag the quality average back up. And somehow it works. In the past six months journostars like Howard FinemanTimothy L. O’Brien and Peter Goodman have all been added to the HuffPo’s swelling masthead, and rather than watering down the site’s political voice, it has stayed true to its core beliefs.

It’s an interesting model.  And, clearly, a financially successful one.

But AOL isn’t just acquiring HuffPo, it’s merging all of its media content under the HuffPo brand and Arianna Huffington’s leadership. Certainly, HuffPo is a stronger brand than Politics Daily and Daily Finance, which are incredibly generic names and lack any real identity. But does AOL want to go from putting together a news network to a lefty opinion site which happens to aggregate “news”?   Apparently so.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    >But does AOL want to go from putting together a news network to a lefty opinion site which happens to aggregate “news”?

    What’s weird about this is that I always suspected that the average AOL user was more conservative than the general public overall. My suspicions began when I viewed the results of their unscientific Internet polls, which nearly always skewed right (though they didn’t much like Bush, and very late in the ’08 election began to favor Obama over McCain). I speculated that this had something to do with the age and income level of the average AOL user. Of course, this was bound to change as AOL changed–it began as a paid subscription service, and later became free, and now people like me who have AOL email keep it because that became our main email addy back in the ’90s, and it would be a pain to change it now.

  2. Franklin says:

    What’s weird about this is that I always suspected that the average AOL user was more conservative than the general public overall.

    And not just a little more conservative. AOL’s customers were almost all old and/or rural.

  3. How many of Arianna’s unpaid writers are going to stick around after this? And did anyone at AOL understand they are also the proud parent of possibly the craziest group of commenters ever assembled?

  4. Rock says:

    And now if Arianna Huffington could acquire the NY Times and Washington Post, she would have most of the goofy pundits cooped together in her massive hen house.

  5. Jeff Q. says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens to Patch.com with this move.

  6. Jeff Q. says:
    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 10:37

    It will be interesting to see what happens to Patch.com with this move.

    I think the term is “died.”

  7. Maxwell James says:

    Reading this post and then the sidebar “Jimmy Buffett Falls Off Stage (Video),” I had to laugh.

    Not that I blame you guys – I understand this is the way the game is played nowadays. And HuffPo really sets the standard in terms of their more, um, colorful content.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Maxwell: Indeed. OTB was starting to run a lot of that sort of content, for precisely the same reasons HuffPo does, around 2004-2005. So I spun off a site called “Gone Hollywood” to get the benefits without polluting the atmosphere here with that content. I do cross-link, for both promotional and SEO purposes, but OTB itself is a politics site almost exclusively now.

  9. Brett says:

    You’d think AOL would be smart enough not to fall for their own scam*. There’s not much in the way of unique content on HuffPo – it’s largely an aggregator of other people’s stuff, combined with all kinds of celebrity gossip and crap that draws most of the eyeballs. It’ s very, very, very likely that some other site will come along and kick their asses in the next couple years, and AOL will be left holding the back.

    No doubt Arianna Huffington knew this, which was why she sold the site. She’s the big winner in this.

    * By scam, I mean how back at the turn of the millenium, AOL negotiated their massive merger with Time Warner just before they took a body blow due to their business model becoming obsolete (which they knew beforehand, but didn’t bother to tell the web-ignorant Time Warner people).

  10. An Interested Party says:

    “And did anyone at AOL understand they are also the proud parent of possibly the craziest group of commenters ever assembled?”

    “And now if Arianna Huffington could acquire the NY Times and Washington Post, she would have most of the goofy pundits cooped together in her massive hen house.”

    I guess the two of you are unfamiliar with Townhall.com or the editorial page of the Washington Times…