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Monday, February 07, 2011

AOL Buys Huffington Post For $315 Million, Loyal HP Readers Not Happy

On Superbowl Sunday a deal was made between Arianna Huffington from Huffington Post and AOL, who just bought the Huffington Post blog, lock, stock and Arianna who will will control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group.

The blogosphere is talking about the deal but the most important opinions shouldn't be what other media outlets or bloggers think about the deal, it should be the loyal readership that has made Huffington Post one of the largest blogs around that has a left leaning slant.

With that in mind the first thing I started going through were the comments on the Huffington Post pieces written about AOL's acquisition of Huffington Post and while some do wish Arianna the best, the majority of the commenters do not seem to be happy with the deal.

Arianna's piece detailing the acquisition has garnered 1863 comments with 627 pending at this moment (61 pages of comments).

sharpedge who has 25 fans writes "Not good. So now we are part of the corporate game? I'm afraid HP will be losing a lot of its players then..."

JackRusselTerrier who has 2112 fans writes "HP, You are not listening to your most loyal fans."

Huffpost super User, CalvinistHobbesian, who has 116 fans writes "I can't help but think this will turn out like GM buying Saab. Subtle changes at first, but after a few years a Saab was just a rebadged Saturn. And now, it's gone. Bye, bye, HuffPo. It was fun while it lasted. "

HuffPost Community Moderator, dutchman with 2184 fans, pretty much describes the tone of the majority of commenters on that piece when he says "I know a few things about mergers.

They are usually good for two groups of people:

1) The owner of the selling firm, who can monetize his/her "sweat equity". I'm sure Arianna's payday will be a big one.

2) The investment bank reaping fat fees from arranging the transactio­n.

But mergers are more often than not bad for the following:

1) The shareholde­rs of the new, combined organizati­on.

2) The employees of the new, combined organizati­on.

3) The customers of the new, combined organizati­on.

At the end of the day, the deal will require that the many posters who take the time to click and comment here stay put. I'm already dubious about whether or not I will. AOL is best known for restrictin­g content to its users, to say nothing of its legendary, bad customer service.

It may be a great match for those making money off the deal, but I don't see how it's good for anyone else. "

There are few willing to defend what Arianna has done, but it is a business decision and Arianna seems to have made out well in the deal.

GeoToronto with 119 fans writes "I don't understand all the doom and gloom.
I've survived 4 mergers and a bankrupcy, its the HP employees who have watch their backs. We're just site visitors/u­sers, this is just business. By the time the AOL execs figure out what HP is all about it will be 2015. "

That was just the first page shown of comments.

Moving along to the post over at Huffington Post which provides the press release from AOL and The Huffington Post. Commenters there are even more critical with 1050 comments and 374 pending, at this moment.

whalerpilot with 62 fans writes "You've got nailed."

Huffpost Super User, Michael Shanahan with 43 fans writes "From the guys who are credited with the worst merger in American History. AOL wants to buy up the liberals. Liberals will likely go along with it. "

Str8upNya with 245 fans writes "All the libs got sold down the river by HP lmao "

Those are representative of the majority of comments and the more pages I read the more critical they seem to be with very few stepping up to defend Arianna's decision.

Howard Fineman (Huffpo writer) posts his take on the acquisition and again the comment section shows loyal readers not pleased. No doubt this will go on throughout the week as more writers over at Huffington give their take on the merger and commenters will respond.

According to one commenter, they are losing fans and their best guess is because people are canceling their accounts.

Liberal Blogosphere Reactions

Liberal reactions on the blogosphere seem to be running along the same lines as the Huffpo readers and commenters with Brilliant at Breakfast headlining with "Mrs. Arianna Huffington, YOU'VE SOLD OUT!! "

"Now which would you rather do, hit this Jew over the head with a bag o'sugar, or beat out that rhythm on the drum?"

If you're an old Firesign Theatre fan like I am, you remember that line from Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. And you also remember that when Mrs. Carolyn Pressky took the bag, she found out that it's just a bag of shit.

Well, Arianna Huffington has taken the bag, and now what started out as a progressive news vehicle with actual money behind it (unlike, say, Air America, which was built on Madoff-like illusions and never really recovered), gets to become linked with Great Journalistic Endeavors like Moviefone, PopEater, and the moribund MapQuest. Because Arianna Huffington has sold her media "empire" to the struggling AOL.

Feministing wonders if Arianna will start paying her writers now:

This also includes its other blogs like EnGadget, Popeater and TechCrunch. My first thought: wow. My second? Meh. The whole reason blogs started in the first place was in response to big mainstream media with a critical eye; now blogs like HuffPo are literally becoming mainstream media. Not saying that no good things will come out of this partnership, but it creates an even a bigger hierarchy that exists between smaller blogs and the massive ones like HuffPo.

The third thought I had is exactly what other bloggers have been asking on Twitter: Maybe they’ll pay their writers now with their new 315 mill? And then we laugh and laugh.

Actually I got a chuckle out of that one too.

Balloon Juice doesn't think the math makes sense:

AOL is going to pay $300 million in cash, and $15 million in stock, for the Huffington Post, and Arianna Huffington will become the head of AOL’s media division. The Huffington Post had $31 million in revenue last year and barely made a profit...

Then they wonder "I wonder who will quit first: the unpaid Post writers who aren’t making a dime from this deal, Arianna’s Hollywood buddies, or Arianna herself."

Good question.

Cannonfire headlines with "I TOLD you not to trust Arianna!"

Again, as with the comments on the Huffpo pieces, there are some liberal bloggers actually wishing Arianna well but the general feeling and tone seems to be they think she has somehow sold out.

Blah blah blah blah blah... envy is not a pretty emotion folks, so put on your big girl/boy panties and smile and wish her luck. The only people that have legitimate complaints are her readers because they are the ones directly affected by this decision and they are the basis of what make Huffington Post so large.

I might not agree with Arianna's liberalism, which wasn't always her political leaning, but I wish her well and congratulate her on her success.

Whether Huffington Post's loyal readership and community sticks around or not, well that is her problem and for AOL's sake, hopefully she has a plan to bring the sheep back into the fold before too many of them bolt.

Otherwise AOL just three $315 million dollars down the hole after a loss of $782.5 million in 2010. (H/T Ace of Spades)