The big story of the day in the internet marketing world was AOL’s acquisition of independent news and content aggregation site The Huffington Post for a not-insubstantial $315 million. Word from the New York Times is that the terms of the deal are for $15 million worth of stock and the remaining three hundred in actual money.
This latest purchase combined with their other recent high-profile buys, the tech blogs Engadget and TechCrunch, shows a company clearly intent on creating a huge online media group, almost like a digital version of Murdoch’s print empire, or at least the beginnings of it, but is this a good thing for news as journalism looks to gain a more substantial foothold in the online world? I’d argue that it’s a little of both.
Many sites, blogs, forums and comments are bemoaning the fact that it’s ‘another independent down’ and that The Huffington Post can never be the same and keep the indie-spirit that so many readers loved when it’s got AOL signing paycheques, but I’d say that it depends how this purchase – and indeed, the site’s as a whole going forward – is handled. As it stands right now, the team behind The Huffington Post are staying in place and Arianna Huffington’s blog post here stated that this is a way to create a platform that can have a truly international impact. In my view, that’s the right way to handle things; take this site and give them access to AOL’s other resources like their video platforms and array of content publishers and ultimately allow them to make the Post better.
The downside to this is that as things progress, The Huffington Post could potentially find their hands tied, not being allowed to post stories that might bring some of AOL’s partners into disrepute and such forth. This is obviously just speculation, but it’s not something that’s out of the realms of possibility.
Ultimately, only time will tell. If The Huffington Post does end up going down as another independent publication that lost its edge when they ‘went corporate’, there will always be another site to take its place as the King of the Indies. That’s the beauty of the internet – we live in a world where anyone can get their work out there for others to read. I’ll tell you what though – if someone offers me a few million for this site, they can have it!
What’s your take? Is this just another indie down, the journalism equivalent of Metallica’s ‘Load’ album or is this a smart move by AOL, moving into a field where they’ve got a chance to be relevant again? I’d love to hear from you.