In 2005, a left-leaning political blog called the Huffington Post was launched by the eccentric political commentator Arianna Huffington. Originally envisioned as a left-wing counterpoint to The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post has gone so far beyond that original vision it’s not even funny. The site has expanded in recent months to include everything from comedy to cooking content, celebrity gossip to green technology, and as the vision has grown, so has the audience. That audience included AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. The Huffington Post has been bought by AOL for $315 million dollars, with Ariana Huffington becoming the new head of the Huffington Post Media Group within AOL.
“This is truly a merger of visions and a perfect fit for us,” said Arianna Huffington in a press release. “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. [. . .] By uniting AOL and The Huffington Post, we are creating one of the largest destinations for smart content and community on the Internet. And we intend to keep making it better and better.”
By acquiring the Huffington Post team, AOL has acquired a group of people who know how to turn website popularity into advertising dollars. Huffington Post took in $31 million in ad revenue last year, and that number is expected to double in 2011. If Huffington and company can provide this kind of vision to the rest of AOL’s ragged collection of online properties, then maybe Armstrong’s vision of an AOL as content provider rather than social network or Internet provider might come true after all.
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