Who Benefits from the HuffPost and AOL Merger?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Arianna Huffington and Tim Armstrong (Jason Kempin, Mario Tama/Getty)

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 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.



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Comments [25]

cicero from ny

Given that my comments on Huffington Post were respectful and proper, but they were posted half the time, on the whim of the "moderator", I have to conclude that HP is a shame to the liberal or to any type of media, it is more something like fachism or a cult organization. Shame on AOL and shame on the liberals, and I am one of them. HP is Chavez. I am for freedom, not for this disgusting enterprise.

Aug. 17 2011 04:52 PM
Madeleine Begun Kane from Bayside, NY

I "celebrated" the acquisition with this limerick:
The Huffington Post has been bought.
In AOL’s lair it’s been caught.
Will its death there be quick,
Or will some readers stick?
And will payment for scribes remain naught?

Feb. 07 2011 06:17 PM

Funny -- I found Betsy interesting thing about the segment, talking about working at Glenn Beck.

Point of segment not sure, not insidery, or deeply insightful.

Aol news is a mess right now -- on top of the recent techcrunch scandal -- surely you can find an insider to extrapolate on the above facts? Jarvis should know.

Where did AOL get the 315 million? How much more do they have? Who are they competing with? Who runs AOL news now that will be effected?

Will AOL writers suddenly get some credibility by buying it? Is this AOL reinventing a ruined brand? Do they see themselves this way? Or is this AOL killing the first famous online free blog, the way it killed america's first news magazine a decade ago?

Feb. 07 2011 02:51 PM

Jarvis: "There was something linked to the website " last week..."

Oh, you mean that website run by that idiot crook Bloget and owned partly by... Jarvis?

Pay your photographers, Jarvis. Stop stealing from

Feb. 07 2011 02:25 PM
emjayay from Brooklyn

Oooops, that was supposed to be "Betsy". Not Besty. Or Betsey.

But still, it is another failure of wnyc journalism for Brian Lehrer to even have her on.

Feb. 07 2011 11:30 AM
Jeremy R. from Brooklyn!

As for listeners questioning Betsy Morgan's seeming ideological turn by working for Glen Beck I would suppose the truth of the matter is that her purse trumped her politics in this case.

She was out of work for quite a long time before taking the Glen Beck gig. We have all done things "for the money" and should not judge but Mr. Beck has been pointedly harmful to the President, the country and progressives for a while now and there should be limits to what anyone of us would do no matter how much we need work.

Feb. 07 2011 11:28 AM
emjayay from Brooklyn

What is Besty Morgan doing on npr? Is this the best you could do? If it is, you should have just had two guests.

We all have to make a living, and everyone has to make some kind of compromise from the Platonic ideal to do it, but anyone who takes a job, particularly a high level job, at anywhere having to do with Glenn Beck for no doubt big bucks has sold their soul to the devil and has shown themselves to be a morally bankrupt person willing to do anything for money, no matter how destructive to society. What next for Betsey? Brokering human organ sales from third world women? Her opinions are worthless by definition. What were you thinking?

Feb. 07 2011 10:44 AM
Jeff Adler from Livingston, NJ

Whether the AOL/Huffington Post merger turns out to be a good idea will depend on whether either entity spends any money on original stories. If they will simply comment on the news gathered by others then it will be easier for some new entity to become the new Huffington Post and compete with them. As the newspapers put up pay walls, will sited like the Huffington Post simply become a supply of rehashing of things read elsewhere?

Feb. 07 2011 10:38 AM

aol pays 15 an article how much does huffpo pay

Feb. 07 2011 10:34 AM
Bob from Manhattan

After AOL acquired Tech Crunch, Michael Arrington (its founder) and AOL's Engadget blog battled constantly and publicly. Just google it to see how bad things got on the comment pages of certain blogs. Does Tim have the leadership to deal with the culture clash?

Feb. 07 2011 10:30 AM
Richard Karnatz from Texarkana TX

Do I care?????
Please tell me why I should care about journalism that is as self serving as the Huff-Poo. Please ask your fuests why any intelligent person should care about some tired old lady cashing in??? It's just crapitalism. Not too much different from the regular Huff-Poo.

Feb. 07 2011 10:27 AM
RLewis from the bowery

I've never heard liberals sound more like republicans. These speakers are such shills for corporate merger. This is just a free advertising segment for new corporate media. yuck!

Feb. 07 2011 10:26 AM
anna from manhattan

HuffPo is a readers digest, abbreviated version of content. I would only get my entertainment news from them. Everything is chopped down re-purposed content.

Feb. 07 2011 10:25 AM
The Truth from Becky

She speaks entirely tooo fast...signs of a manipulating liar.

Feb. 07 2011 10:24 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

From personal career experience, HuffPo gets much of its content from outside voices,, professionals, advocates, etc., who are often being paid as part of their work for other organizations, which is in itself a unique business model.

Feb. 07 2011 10:18 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

HuffPo is the worst threat to the future of media. HP believes in severe censorship and has blatantly bragged that it's their venue and that "there is no free speech on our site" (as one moderator told me after I complained that half of my posts were not being displayed.) I know several people who were not Obama cheerleaders who were "disappeared" (to use our new Justice Elena Kagan's favorite term for what to do with critics) after posting criticism of the administration. Their profiles and histories were wiped clean and they ceased to exist. Sound familiar, Mr. Orwell?
More irony from those who call themselves progressives.

Feb. 07 2011 10:17 AM
Dorian Benkoil from Manhattan

Question for Jeff and Betsy: Will Arianna have to town down her progressive outspokenness? will her politics affect the business? (Am friendly with Jeff and Betsy, by way)

Feb. 07 2011 10:17 AM
sharon from NYC

This is a brilliant move for both AOL and Huffpo. AOL has had the head of programming role open for months...and can't retain editorial talent right now. It's all been poached lately by folks just like Huffpo. Head of media (which is programming) at AOL is a biz dev guy - the perfect complement to Arianna who is someone with real vision who gets how to empower democracy and multiple points of view - not just liberal ones.

P.S. Huffpo's sales team is also better than AOL's - Greg Coleman is there as the Chief Revenue Office - he is ex. Yahoo AND AOL. They get him in this deal which is huge.

Feb. 07 2011 10:16 AM
Jay F.

Free? You get what you pay for.

Feb. 07 2011 10:15 AM
kehrt reyher from warsaw, poland

what's the financial data background for this deal? how was huffpost valued for the transaction?

Feb. 07 2011 10:14 AM
Kas from Brooklyn

Won't this drive even more accusations that the media is too "liberal" ? Anything to add some zip to the moribund AOL seems like a good idea, but I imagine Beck's head is going to explode!

Feb. 07 2011 10:14 AM
RLewis from the bowery

the corporate republican in Ariana is showing itself with this move. liberal news goes corporate. sad.

Feb. 07 2011 10:10 AM
Teal from tarrytown

Oh dear, I desperately hope that this does not signal a sharp turn to the Right for Huffpost. as happenend to Newsweek.I just finished reading "Third World America" . I have to keep faith that Arriana will stay true to the truth and to a Progressive voice.

Feb. 07 2011 10:10 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Guess I won't be looking to aol for news.

Feb. 07 2011 10:08 AM
Dallas from NYC

Its like Friendster acquiring Facebook.

Feb. 07 2011 10:03 AM

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