The Huffington Post sells to AOL for $315 million

In April 2005, when I first heard that former Republican pundit Arianna Huffington had plans to launch a left wing political commentary site where notable Americans as diverse as Walter Cronkite and Maggie Gyllenhaal would be contributing content on everything from foreign affairs to their fear of bedbugs, I had the following to say.

…I’ll keep my eye on this project of Arianna’s as I’m curious to see how it plays out, but I’m not expecting much. There might be an occasional glimmer of insight, but, more often that not, I think visitors will find themselves staring at the narcissistic and boorish rantings of b-list celebrities and Hollywood hacks…

As it turns out, I was right. While occasionally there’s something good on the site, written by someone like Robert Reich or Sam Stein, for the most part the site consists of links to other people’s content, peppered liberally with salacious headlines. (My favorite headline is still, “Megan Fox Lifts Leg Over Head, in Panties.” I think it ran next to a piece about the seriousness of global climate change, written by Al Gore.) But, apparently, it’s what people wanted at the height of the Bush administration. People on the left, it would seem, were desperate for their own Drudge Report, but with pictures. And, that readership, we learned yesterday, when AOL announced their deal to buy the online tabloid, is worth a hell of a lot of money.

As shocked as I was to hear that AOL had handed over $300 million in cash, and $15 million in stock for the left-leaning news aggregator, I was even more shocked to learn that AOL was still in business, and that people were still paying to dial-in to the internet and hear a man inform them when they’ve got mail.

I’m curious… Does anyone know a person under 50 who still has an AOL account?

The following clip is from the Washington Post:

…AOL is buying a popular success, but Huffington Post’s original journalism has tended to be indistinct and forgettable. Its biggest stories, arguably, were revelations from the campaign trail in 2008 that then-candidate Barack Obama had criticized some voters as “clinging to guns and religion” and Bill Clinton’s unguarded thoughts about the writer of a Vanity Fair profile (“dishonest . . . a scumbag”). The reporter of those scoops, a “citizen journalist” named Mayhill Fowler, quit writing for the site last year because it refused to compensate her for her work.

Rather, Huffington Post has attracted an enormous following – roughly 20 million unique visitors a month – largely by aggregating and rewriting the work of hundreds of journalists who work for other news organizations. Its most popular offerings are typically the links in its right-hand rail, a collection of entertainment, technology and lifestyle stories of varied seriousness and veracity. On Monday, for example, the rail included such headlines as “Soderbergh Affair . . . Hef’s Virginity Loss . . . Fat Russell Brand . . . Pink’s Baby Bump”…

It’s being estimated, by the way, that Arianna is walking away from the deal with about $100 million in cash. Not bad for a few year’s work… And, by “waling away,” I don’t mean that she’ll be leaving. She, we’re told, intends to stay on and manage AOL’s content.

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  1. Josh
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    there was a 17 year old dude in one of my classes checking his email and the voice told him he had mail. even the teacher laughed pretty hard about it and told him to get a gmail account.

  2. Posted February 8, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Funny, the last thing I read at HuffPo — one of the few things I’ve ever read there, was about how “a full 60% of AOL’s profits come from mostly older misinformed customers who don’t realize that they don’t need to subscribe to AOL to get online.

  3. Posted February 8, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    The Huffington Post is like People magazine to me, mostly mindless entertainment for a bus ride home. It’s got some interesting moments, but mostly I can’t see how anyone can take it seriously. Most of the serious news that appears on the HuffPo are just links nabbed from the NYT and the Washington Post.

    I’m just surprised that AOL has 300 mil to spend.

    On the other hand, you can’t deny the HuffPo’s power. It radicalized Jared Loughner and drove him to kill.

  4. Edward
    Posted February 8, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink


  5. Posted February 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I doubt if you are correct when you characterize AOL as largely dial-up and over 50 as far as its’ current client base is concerned. That said, I remember when they bought out and trashed Netscape. The major investors in AOL seem to find a way to make strange decisions. What remains is the fact that many find learning a way of doing things within a structured software environment costly enough that the effort to learn a new and different way once that learning has been acquired to a level that satisfies presents a barrier to further effort.

  6. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Do you suppose Huffington’s switch from conservative to liberal was all about this?

  7. Jeff Clark
    Posted February 8, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Huff Post is like People? Does People have hour-by-hour updates on events in Egypt, and regular dispatches directly from participants in the revolution . . . as its continuous lead story?

    I think that readers of serious Left journalism who include HP in daily news rounds, understand to ignore the “most viewed” column of crap to the right of the page. Common sense.

    I like John Nichols on his hopes for the merger:

    I don’t have big hopes for HP improving, given this merger and all that it entails. But to pretend the site is worthless for progressives, is asinine.

  8. Bob
    Posted February 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    She’s back to being a Republican

  9. Aaron
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    AOL is still a relevant online company, just not a relevant ISP. Heck, Time-Warner finally split them in ’09.

  10. Edward
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    This is for you, Dirtgrain:

    I first came across Huffington in 1995, when she was working at Gingrich’s Progress and Freedom Foundation, preaching social consciousness to fellow conservatives. She railed against “big government” and pronounced: “We do our part and God meets us halfway. That’s why I’m a conservative.”

    That version of Huffington called for strict immigration restrictions. She favored Bill Clinton’s resignation and floated the rumor that a former ambassador had been buried in Arlington because Clinton had slept with his wife.

    By that time, she had already had many ideological meanderings, beginning with a book called “The Female Woman” (seen as anti-feminist) and continuing to a biography portraying Picasso as a misogynist (seen as a feminist tract). She had also been heavily involved in campaigns by her then-husband, a Republican, for the House and Senate.

    But in the late 1990s, Huffington began to reinvent herself. She covered the ’96 political conventions for Comedy Central with Al Franken. She broke with Gingrich. She disparaged Bob Dole. She promoted Warren Beatty for president. She published a book favoring campaign finance reform. In 2000, she hosted a “shadow convention” protesting both parties.

    She later explained the “transformation” of her political views by saying the right had “seduced, fooled, blinded, bamboozled” her.

    That’s crazy talk. Nobody bamboozles Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington. If anybody was fooled, it was those who believed she would be a more enduring progressive than she was a conservative.

    Here’s the whole article by Dana Milbank.

  11. Kim
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    To those who wondered if the HP would change at all after the acquisition, the answer is a resounding YES. Andrew Brietbart has posted his first blog entry on the site.

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