Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

AOL buys The Huffington Post for $315 million

Cementing its evolution from Internet service provider to digital content collective, AOL announced today that it has agreed to acquire The Huffington Post for $315 million, giving it control of one of the world's most popular opinion sites.

According to AOL's news release, Arianna Huffington — who founded the site that bears her name in 2005 — will take on a fairly important role within AOL going forward, reporting to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong:
As part of the transaction, Arianna [...] will be named President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL content, including Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, MapQuest, Black Voices, PopEater, AOL Music, AOL Latino, AutoBlog, Patch, StyleList, and more.
The press release did not outline any strategy for how its disparate network of sites — which becomes even larger with this deal — will be integrated. However, the New York Times reports some consolidation is coming:
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.
"By combining HuffPost with AOL's network of sites, thriving video initiative, local focus, and international reach, we know we'll be creating a company that can have an enormous impact, reaching a global audience on every imaginable platform," Huffington argued in a blog post announcing the deal.

The transaction, which was actually inked just a few hours ago at the Super Bowl in Dallas, has already received approval from the boards of each company, and is likely to close within a few weeks.

We at NPI are opposed to increased media consolidation and concentration, so, unlike some of Arianna's fans, we're not cheering this acquisition.

That said, it's nowhere close to being as harmful to the public interest as most of the megadeals that have happened since the 1990s (for instance, Comcast's successful pursuit of a controlling stake in NBC Universal, News Corporation's procurement of Dow Jones, Disney's purchases of Marvel and Pixar, or even AOL's ill-fated merger with Time Warner, which was undone in 2009 when AOL was jettisoned, er, spun off, as its own company once more).

AOL is a company with a troubled history. Whether its current trajectory is viable or not remains to be seen. It will be certainly be interesting to see what happens when Arianna assumes control over AOL's many cyber properties.


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