AOL has announced the surprise acquisition of liberal-leaning news website The Huffington Post. The internet giant paid $315 million for the site, and will make its founder, Arianna Huffington, the president and editor-in-chief of the newly christened Huffington Post Media Group, "which will include all Huffington Post and AOL content." Media analysts were stunned by the move, which has secretly been in the works since November, but were quick to applaud it as a "win-win" for both parties. Is that really the case? (Watch a CNN report about the deal)
Yes, AOL gets vision while Arianna gets money: "This deal is a good one for both sides," says Felix Salmon at Reuters. AOL gets "a voice and a clear editorial vision," which it has lacked thus far. HuffPo gets more resources and "lots of money," with which it will buy many more "big names" like Howard Fineman from mainstream media. This makes their combined forces a "unique and very valuable" proposition.
No, it's better for HuffPo than AOL: This deal will "vault" Huffington Post to "the next level of growth," says Kara Swisher at All Things Digital. But the upside isn't as obvious for AOL, which "still has not delivered the business turnaround" it promised after its spinoff from Time Warner. Wall Street is getting "impatient," so if AOL's lackluster ad revenue doesn't tick up this year, there could be trouble ahead.
"You've got Arianna: AOL buys Huffington Post for $315 million in cash and stock, appoints Huffington editor-in-chief"
This deal is reminiscent of AOL's past failures: "There's something soullessly commercial about this proposition," says Jemima Kiss at The Guardian. AOL is just "looking at the numbers." Together, the two sites will have "117 million unique monthly users in the U.S." And while "those numbers add up," AOL has a history of "ill-judged, overpaid and desperate acquisitions" that prove to be "the kiss of death" for the business being bought. Simply acquiring "big names isn't enough without an idea of what that means, and what you stand for."
"AOL buys Huffington Post: the beginning of the end?"
This deal could spell bad news for readers: Evidence that someone is "willing to invest" in online news is good for anyone in the media industry, says Ben Smith at Politico. But this deal could disappoint news junkies. AOL's "cringe-inducing," target-driven approach to news could "exacerbate" Huffington Post's bad tendencies, such as focusing on "celebrity headlines" at the expense of actual reporting. The loser could be you, the reader.