"In one of the biggest digital publishing deals in recent memory, AOL has agreed to pay $315 million for the Huffington Post, the pioneering web-only newspaper co-founded by Arianna Huffington," as Edmund Lee reported early Monday for AdAge.com.
"The deal is AOL CEO Tim Armstrong's latest and boldest attempt to transform the declining company from one that helped millions of people get onto the internet through dial-up connections to one that informs and entertains them in a broadband world, or as he called it, a 'new American media company.' "
The deal makes Huffington, the Huffington Post's co-founder and editor-in-chief, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all Huffington Post and AOL content.
That content includes Black Voices and AOL Latino, even though a graphic accompanying the announcement mysteriously omitted those websites. Other affected sites include engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, MapQuest, PopEater, AOL Music, AutoBlog, Patch and StyleList.
It was not immediately clear how the transaction affects Huffington Post's plans for GlobalBlack, an African American-oriented site being developed by Huffington Post in conjunction with Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television.
Jeremy W. Peters and Verne G. Kopytoff, writing in the New York Times, reported, "AOL’s own news Web sites like Politics Daily and Daily Finance are likely to disappear when the deal is completed, and many of the writers who work for those sites will become Huffington Post writers, according to people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not to be identified discussing plans that are still being worked out."
Neither AOL nor Huffington Post discloses its diversity figures or is particularly known for diversity initiatives, but the Patch unit, a series of hyperlocal news sites that has attracted some journalists of color, is to be folded into Huffington Post.
Among the journalists of color who have signed up with AOL Patch are Susan Ruiz Patton, formerly an assistant metro editor at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland; Bobbi Bowman, former diversity director for the American Society of News Editors, in McLean, Va.; Janita Poe, once with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as a local producer in Atlanta; Aldrin Brown, a former college sports editor at the Tennessean in Nashville and city editor for the San Bernardino (Calif.) Sun, as a regional editor for the Inland Empire in Southern California; Holly Edgell, a former assistant professor and executive producer at KOMU-TV at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, as one of two regional editors in St Louis; and Whitney Teal, a local Patch editor in the Maryland suburbs. She is a former editor at Uptown Literati, a blog about literature, and assistant editor at Sister 2 Sister magazine.
"The new group will have a combined base of 117 million unique visitors a month in the United States and 270 million around the world," the Huffington Post said in its announcement.
"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," AOL's Armstrong said.
"This is truly a merger of visions and a perfect fit for us," Huffington added in the announcement. "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 organization, 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."
In a controversial move in 2009, Lorraine Branham, dean of the Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, awarded Huffington the Fred Dressler Lifetime Achievement Award for leadership in the media industry, controversial because Huffington Post does not pay most of those who write for it.
"The work of its 70-person paid staff is augmented by content from news outlets and 6,000 bloggers who write for free," according to the Associated Press.
Branham told Journal-isms then, "The Fred Dressler Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes leadership in the media industry — and whether you support her or not, you can't say Arianna Huffington is not a leader. She is out there, pushing the envelope, taking risks and moving all of us forward, forcing the conversation about the changing nature of our industry.
"The Newhouse School, which teaches the full range of communications disciplines and studies the factors affecting them, recognizes the need to explore new solutions to the issues facing the industry, to experiment with new revenue models and find new approaches. Huffington has done just that; she has been willing to experiment and take risks and embrace change."
- Paul Carr, TechCrunch: I, For One, Welcome Our New Huffington Overlord
- Arianna Huffington blog: When HuffPost Met AOL: "A Merger of Visions"
- David Sarno, Los Angeles Times: A brief history of the Huffington Post
Former Essence magazine editor Angela Burt-Murray, who was point person for the Huffington Post's new project targeting African Americans, has left the project, Derek J. Murphy, chief operating officer of the venture, told Journal-isms on Thursday.
"I'm currently managing staff recruiting and site development with our partnership team. Angela Burt Murray is no longer part of these efforts or this partnership," Murphy said via e-mail.
Before the GlobalBlack project, Murphy was Huffington Post's senior vice president, business development, joining the organization in 2009 from CNN, where he headed strategic partnerships for the CNN Interactive Group, forging alliances with companies that included Google, CareerBuilder and LG Electronics.
Burt-Murray left Essence magazine in November after editing it for five years and surfaced at the Huffington Post project in January. She did not respond to a request for comment and Murphy did not explain Burt-Murray's departure.
The GlobalBlack concept was developed with Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television. It has its detractors.
Columnist Ruben Navarrette of the Washington Post Writers Group wrote last week:
"There's the hitch. Shouldn't this be the goal of every media company in the country? If you want to cover the United States, then you should cover it in all its color and complexity. Otherwise, your product — newspaper, magazine, website, radio or television network, etc. — will soon become outdated and irrelevant.
"Besides, the 'black community' is an inseparable part of the American community. . . ."
- The Root staff, theRoot.com: Shuffle at the Top at HuffPo's Black-Site Project