In the early hours of Monday, Feb. 7, a major deal was announced to the world. AOL has purchased the Huffington Post for a reported $315 million. The deal is expected to be completed late first quarter or early second quarter this year, bringing together two companies that have a combined readership of almost 120 million unique visitors per month. The sale includes $300 million in cash and another $15 million in AOL stock.
This move comes only seven years after Arianna Huffington started up the Post with a meager $1 million investment. Her aim was to combat the right leaning Drudge Report and other conservative websites. Huffington used her creative implementation of different social media ideas and a solid team of writers in order to rapidly grow the company into what it is today.
Does this sale impact the world of online reporting at large? That is the question that people around the net are asking today. The answers are as diverse as the two merging companies. According to Huffington herself, “The Huffington Post will continue on the same path we have been on for the last six years – though now at light speed – by combining with AOL”.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong seconds that statement: “Together, our companies will embrace the digital future and become a digital destination that delivers unmatched experiences for both consumers and advertisers.” They are expecting great things to come.
Devotees to the Huffington Post do not have such an optimistic attitude in regard to the new direction of the company. One of the biggest draws to the site was the left leaning nature of the writing and the dynamic conversations held in the comments section. According to one report, 81 percent of the readers at the Huffington Post believe that the site has sold out by combining with a media giant and will lose the liberal leaning that has made the site what it is today. They believe that greed and money are the driving forces behind this move.
The future of web-based reporting will have to wait to see how this plays out. Both sides cannot be correct. This will either impact the world at large, at least for a short time, or it will go down as another epic failure for AOL. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of readership between the two sites and they will be able to sell a great deal of ad space. Will it affect other sites, though? Will readers begin to move toward the new group, or will they remain loyal to where they are?
My personal opinion is that other sites will benefit from this move. A moderate liberal site is merging with a moderate conservative site, meaning some are going to get left out. A site cannot please both crowds. Members on the Huffington Post are already working to come up with their backup plan should they be the ones left out.