Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Who Benefits from the HuffPost and AOL Merger?
Monday, February 07, 2011
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. AOL is set to acquire the Huffington Post and make Arianna Huffington head of all editorial content for the company. On The Brian Lehrer Show today, Jeff Jarvis, author of the blog BuzzMachine and professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Ana Marie Cox, GQ Washington Correspondent and founder of the Wonkette blog, and Betsy Morgan, former CEO of The Huffington Post and current president of The Blaze, discuss what this move means for the the future of the liberal online community and the media landscape in general.
The most surprising news of the morning is the merger of internet giant AOL and left-leaning news slash opinion website Huffington Post. (The Huffington Post is calling it a "brand new media universe.") AOL will pay $315 million for the popular online outlet, while HuffPo co-founder Arianna Huffington will get the opportunity to expand her publication's reach across new platforms.
But making Arianna Huffington the new face of AOL could compromise its non-partisan image, potentially politicizing what's long been a non-political organization. However, Betsy Morgan, former CEO of The Huffington Post and current president of Glenn Beck's The Blaze, was confident this would be a win-win situation for both parties.
I'm a big believer in brands. Arianna is a big brand and she's become an even bigger brand. And Glenn's obviously a big brand today. There couldn't be a better deal for both companies. It's an acceleration of everything that Tim [Armstrong, AOL CEO] has said he wanted to do.
Ana Marie Cox agreed this may work out well for both companies, but not so much for journalists.
I think this is great news for Arianna personally and probably pretty good news for AOL, but I'm not sure how good news it is for people like me that try to make a living writing for the web. Huffington Post notoriously doesn't really pay its writers. It takes advantage...of the desire for people to have a platform.
Morgan argued these folks are still part of the landscape that HuffPost offers.
There are probably 6,000 bloggers on HuffPost by now, those people are not paid. Huffington Post does not pay its bloggers, but there's also a growing number of paid journalists on Huffington Post and on AOL...I think the new world order is a blend of a lot of different things and the challenge is going to be juggling all those balls in the air.
Jeff Jarvis said this blending is a sign of how content has changed and it's something both companies have considered in their strategies to create it.
The truth is we've moved from a world of scarce content controlled by media companies to a world of ever-abundant content. So there's two creations of value there. One is the creation of content still, and Arianna sees a value in that because she hires reporters and says so because they get more traffic, but there's also a value in the creation of an audience for that content...so having a place that's going to bring a lot of people together to see stuff is coincident in the strategies of both AOL and Arianna.
From a business standpoint, Jarvis said both media companies have something to offer each other.
What Arianna has is the power of people and she understands the value of giving people a platform...and that's what she'll be bringing to AOL. So I think she'll bring more personality...more humanity to what was becoming a bit of a cold factory of AOL...What they bring to her is sales... and they bring capital. They bring to her the opportunity to expand.
Either way, Cox said, this merger offers a big opportunity for the public.
I think there is going to be a lot of freedom to tussel in the marketplace of ideas and I think that's something that all of us here on this call value.