Thoughts On The AOL Huffington Post Deal

I was asked today on Formspring “What are your thoughts on AOL buying Huffington Post?”. The response is informal 1st person, but I thought I’d share it here.

It’s an interesting buy on a couple of fronts.

People are far too quick to criticize AOL’s content strategy based on AOL’s disastrous (at times) past, but there is a future in new media content, and even before the latest wave of acquisitions, AOL has done a good (perhaps not brilliant) job with the old Weblogs Inc properties. I get what they are trying to achieve.

The Huffington Post is a risky acquisition though for a company that has mostly relied on in-house growth, and it’s perhaps not an easy fit into their business vs say TechCrunch slotting in to the existing network of blogs/ new media sites AOL own.

I have a pile of respect for Arianna Huffington and what she’s done with The HuffPost, but likewise the decision to place her in charge of AOL’s content properties is an interesting decision.

Arianna’s strength is that she places people around her who know the business better, and perhaps she’ll do this at AOL, but likewise while she was ideal in getting the attention/ celebrity involvement etc at Huffpost, I don’t think she fully has a grasp of the true blogging style sites that AOL owns because they are very different to what the Huffpost does.

In a broader market sense, the acquisition is a huge positive for the new media industry. We’ve seen plenty of smaller acquisitions over time, with the market starting to recover post GFC with more and more acquisitions. I don’t recall any acquisition in this space as large as the HuffPost deal, and the size of the deal reflects the maturity of the marketplace as a serious part of the media landscape. I’m not suggesting that the deal has made new media come of age (I believe this occurred several years ago) but it might go some way in blunting some of the small clique of critics (all in old media) who continue to take shots at the sector.