In its strategic drive to snap up as much digital media real estate as possible, AOL has acquired The Huffington Post blog for US$315m in cash and has appointed its founder Arianna Huffington editor-in-chief.
The move is the latest in a line of digital acquisitions including TechCrunch and Engadget, aimed to position AOL at the nexus point for connected news at a time when newspapers, despite three years of recession, have still not figured out a viable digital business model.
Huffington will be made editor of all AOL digital content and the warring editors of TechCrunch and Engadget, Michael Arrington and Joshua Topolsky, will have to report to her.
Next-generation media company
“The acquisition of The Huffington Post will create a next-generation American media company with global reach that combines content, community and social experiences for consumers,” said Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO of AOL.
“Together, our companies will embrace the digital future and become a digital destination that delivers unmatched experiences for both consumers and advertisers.
“Arianna is a singularly passionate and dedicated champion of innovative journalistic engagement, and a master of the art of using new media to illuminate, entertain and enhance the national conversation. Arianna is a remarkable person and she will continue to create remarkable outcomes for the combined company,” Armstrong said.
The Huffington Post over-indexes on educated, affluent users, reaching the key decision makers in C-suites around the globe. Among those who have blogged on The Huffington Post are US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Google co-founder Larry Page, broadcaster Diane Sawyer, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, singer/songwriter Neil Young, singer Madonna, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, broadcaster Charlie Rose, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, actor George Clooney, and former US president Bill Clinton.
The Huffington Post attracts 4m comments a month and its audience is growing at a rate of 22pc a month.
Community building via smart content
“This is truly a merger of visions and a perfect fit for us,” said Huffington. “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.
“Our readers will still be able to come to The Huffington Post at the same URL, and find all the same content they’ve grown to love, plus a lot more – more local, more tech, more entertainment, more finance, and lots more video. We are fusing a legendary and powerful new media brand with a vibrant, innovative news organisation, known for its distinctive voice, a highly engaged audience, an expertise in community-building, and a track record for demystifying the news and putting flesh and blood on the data while drawing our audience into the conversation.
“By uniting AOL and The Huffington Post, we are creating one of the largest destinations for smart content and community on the internet. And we intend to keep making it better and better,” Huffington said.