The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or so Arianna Huffington would have us believe with her “1 + 1 = 11” summation of the AOL acquisition of the establishment-wary, left of centre provider of news and lifestyle items, opinions, and high profile contributions; The Huffington Post.
A press release issued by AOL and The Huffington Post announced on the 7th February that the amalgamation of these Goliaths of digital media (albeit with differing Goliath-connotative attributes which inform their respective reputations) would create a combined reach of 117 million US citizens, with that number reaching 270 million on a global scale.
The move has came as a shock to many, and a disappointment to numerous others, whose perception of the Huffington Post was that of an independent thinker, existing outwith the ordinary realm of commercial news providers.
Online Marketing experts QueryClick.com commented on the potential damage this deal could have on the carefully crafted The Huffington Post image:
“Since 2005 it has built up an established non-establishment reputation, and for many this move single handedly sweeps this grounding from under the feet of the Huffington Post and it's co-founder Arianna Huffington.”
The $315 million purchase of the news site by the somewhat tarnished internet services company AOL has split opinion. While many see the deal as another example of the ill-fated AOL merger with Time Warner in 2000, others view the move as a powerful collaboration of political and social influence with sheer scale as a recipe for success.
The latter, for whom the deal makes a lot of sense, draw on the potential of AOL to amplify the influence of The Huffington Post, thus creating something of an unstoppable force in digital media. According to Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, the move is a positive one for both parties. In an interview with the Telegraph, Sandberg said:
“Arianna is one of the pre-eminent authors and editors of our time and Tim [Armstrong, chief executive of AOL] has a remarkable track record of business success. Bringing them together creates tremendous potential for AOL.”
However, the discourse surrounding the acquisition is reminiscent of the Time Warner AOL merger 11 years ago. Then, as now, onlookers commented on the positive possibilities of such a collaboration of industry leaders. SEO company QueryClick.com are unsure that the deal is as sound as it may at first appear:
“In 2000, it was predicted that the new partnership would change the media landscape, and would represent the absolute triumph of new media.
However, the difference today is the reversal of roles which has taken place. While the then CEO of AOL, Steve Case, was billed as the man to irrevocably change the face of the internet, if not the world, AOL are now most definitely the secondary player in the recent acquisition.”
After a decade of unfulfilled expectations with Time Warner, with the partnership finally coming to an end in 2009, will the latest relationship entered into by AOL fare any better? Let's see where we are in 2019.
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