Economy

AOL Buys 'Huffington Post,' Arianna To Be Head Of Content

There's big news in the world of online news and opinion this morning: AOL is buying The Huffington Post for $315 million.

And since Arianna Huffington will become "head of all the content on AOL," Kara Swisher, who has written two books about AOL, that means AOL is taking on someone who's quite well known for her liberal views. But, Swisher said on Morning Edition today, lately "she's sort of been on the attack against the Obama administration. ... You never know quite where she's going to go. So even though [Huffington Post] started out sort of a counter to the Drudge Report ... I think it's sort of evolved into a more central kind of thing where there's a lot of debate going on."

As for the wisdom of AOL's purchase, Swisher says "it's a good deal in that ... Huffington Post is very good at creating a very exciting aggregation play in news and they have also started to do original journalism."

Here's the conversation Swisher had with ME's Renee Montagne:

Renee Montagne speaks with Kara Swisher

Swisher has also posted a video interview she did with Huffington and Armstrong about the deal.

Some other views on the deal:

— At ZDNet's Between the Lines blog, Sam Diaz writes that "it's a bold — and pricey — move for [AOL CEO Tim] Armstrong, who was brought in as CEO nearly two years ago to beef up the company and perhaps make it more attractive for a suitor."

— Forbes' Jeff Bercovici says at his Mixed Media blog that "AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, a former college football player, needed a Hail Mary to pull off a turnaround of the ailing internet conglomerate he took over nearly two years ago. On Super Bowl Sunday, he did the equivalent of chucking the ball 70 yards downfield: AOL is buying the Huffington Post."

— NPR's David Folkenflik, on his Twitter page, notes that "given the punchlines rolling in online, AOL's Armstrong & Huffington will have to overcome skepticism about AOL's track record at synergy."

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. NPR's Folkenflik just filed this for the network's newscast:

"At the moment, and this is true — AOL's biggest single revenue source arrives each month from people who still pay for its dial-up Internet service and related subscription products — like e-mail. That's imperiled in a broadband era.

"AOL's CEO Tim Armstrong has bet big instead on content, hiring a small cadre of established journalists and creating a new family of sites called Patch to cover hyperlocal news. So far, it hasn't paid off. The highly trafficked Huffington Post, with a blend of unpaid blogs and original reporting, is expected to bring in waves of new visitors, advertisers and, AOL hopes, new profits."

He also notes, though, that some combos don't produce the right "synergy": "Eleven years ago, AOL bought Time Warner. It is not just the largest but one of the worst mergers in American corporate history."

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