News that AOL had agreed to purchase Huffington Post for $315 million caused a stir on the blogosphere Monday and provided ample material for cable news programs last night. According to a company news release, $300 million will be paid with cash on hand. The Huffington Post, long considered a source for progressive news, reaches 117 million unique visitors a month in the United States, and approximately 270 million worldwide. After the deal is done, AOL, a company with its own substantial global audience, plans to speed up its delivery of premium content, including news, entertainment and more. Until this merger, The Huffington Post, a news and analysis website founded in 2005 , has been privately owned by its two cofounders, Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, as well as a group of investors.
According to the news release, “The transaction will create a premier global, national, local, and hyper-local content group for the digital age – leveraged across online, mobile, tablet, and video platforms.”
Fans of the Huffington Post may be comforted by the fact that Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post‘s co-founder and editor-in-chief, will be named president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. The group will include all Huffington Post and AOL content, including MapQuest, Black Voices, PopEater, AOL Music and others. This provides some assurance to Huffington fans that AOL will become more like Huffington than Huffington will become like AOL.
However, there are those who worry that the acquisition will change the quality of the news produced by Huffington Post. Last night on The Ed Show, host Ed Schultz interviewed Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the Huffington Post. Schultz asked Sekoff, “Will progressives still be able to count on the Huffington Post?”
Sekoff not only assured Schultz and his audience that things will stay the same, he asserted that Huffington Post will be “supercharged” by the its union with AOL. It will be like “getting of a fast moving train and getting on a supersonic jet,” Sekoff said.
Despite all assurances, those who are concerned about the conglomeration of media are waiting to see what the future will bring. Schultz voiced the thoughts of many when he suggested that a “big corporate takeover” was exactly what the Huffington Post should stand against. As John Nichols wrote yesterday in The Nation:
“Huffington’s challenge, a huge one, will be to remove the uncertainty and create a pro-journalism, pro-democracy digital future that is dramatically different, and dramatically better, than what big media combinations have produced up to now. “
Many will be watching to see what this “big media combination” produces, hoping to see a truly supercharged news source and not another dumbed-down conglomerate.