You read that right – AOL buys Huffington Post for $315 million.
Arianna Huffington announced the agreement on her website after the end of Super Bowl 45. We think it would have made for better television had they announced the agreement in a commercial during Super Bowl 45, something along the lines of the GoDaddy commercial with Joan Rivers, or maybe even INCLUDING Joan Rivers, with Joan and Arianna having a cougar-off. And once you’ve dropped over 300 mil, really, what’s the big deal about another few bucks for a Super Bowl ad?
She talked about her email from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and their lunch at her Los Angeles home. There, Armstrong made known his desire to buy HuffPo and “put all of AOL’s content under a newly formed Huffington Post Media Group,” with Arianna as president and editor-in-chief. The deal was actually signed at the Super Bowl last evening. And now we’re glad there wasn’t a commercial, especially if it would have included live footage of Huffington feeding Armstrong popcorn at the denouement of the deal, or vice versa.
Armstrong had previously talked about AOL (formerly America Online) having lots of brand awareness and loyalty but no brand identity. That is kind of the opposite of what we think when we think about AOL, which is that it has lots of brand identity that is still centered around those 3.5″ floppy disks we used to get in the mail, and brand loyalty only among those who still haven’t learned to change the pre-set homepage on their computer, but I digress. HuffPo, based on what you see among its commenters, has both loyalty and identity, and the merger will result in the integration of all HuffPo and AOL content. AOL wants to turn itself into THE media company, which will now include Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, Mapquest, Moviefone, PopEater, and more.
Social is dead over there — in December of last year, AOL chat rooms closed down, and it sold its social networking site Bebo last year. No time for that: Armstrong is betting AOL’s future on content creation, video stories, traffic generation, and search engine optimization.
You might get an idea of where Armstrong is coming from if you got a look at AOL’s Master Plan, which was leaked to Business Insider. It’s serious stuff – by March he wants 40,000 pieces of content produced per month and 95% of content SEO’d. Social referrals (Facebook, Twitter) too.
Whether Huffington Post can retain its identity in AOL’s corporate environment remains to be seen.
We’d bet it can. We also like AOL’s plans and think it’s on the right track – and agree 100% with its decision to keep buying brands that are NOT called “AOL” or “Aol.” or any variant of those letters. Far better strategy than slapping your logo on a goldfish: