AOL dropped a news bomb Sunday night when it announced a $315 million acquisition of that bastion of liberal blogging, The Huffington Post. Under the deal, HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington will become president and editor-in-chief for many of AOL’s Web properties including Engadget, MapQuest, Moviefone, Patch, PopEater, StyleList, and TechCrunch. The new Web media conglomerate will be called the Huffington Post Media Group.
AOL has been on quite the buying spree lately; the HuffPo merger follows AOL’s recent acquisition of TechCrunch, as the company seeks to turn itself (back) into one of the Web’s biggest content producers. But can it work? Will AOL succeed in becoming a Web content gateway after failing to become an entertainment gateway with Time Warner? And will AOL’s new stable of Web personalities clash before this new venture even gets off the ground?
Om Malik over at Gigaom isn’t buying into the HuffPo-AOL hype. Malik argues that HuffPo’s page views have been dropping for the past six months, which means fewer advertising dollars coming in. The blog may also have a hard time regaining readers now that the political landscape–at least for liberals–has changed from the contentious Bush years to the Obama era.
That’s a reasonable concern since there isn’t a conservative boogeyman to fight against in the same way liberal bloggers could do battle with the Bush Administration. Then again, it’s almost time to gear up for the 2012 Presidential Elections. If Sarah Palin were to run, well, HuffPo’s readership just might explode.
Web media acquisitions and IPOs appear to be the hot new trend in recent years. Looking past AOL’s buying spree, the industrial-sized content farm Demand Media recently had its initial public offering with a valuation of $1.5 billion and Yahoo bought Associated Content last May for a rumored $100 million.
It’s a great time to own a blog, but not necessarily to write for one. Huffington Post contributors won’t be seeing an increase in their average salary of $0 under the new acquisition. In a recent e-mail sent to HuffPo contributors, the company said, “Your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That’s the only real change you’ll notice — more people reading what you wrote.”