Every Super Bowl has its share of memorable moments, but one in particular took everyone by surprise. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington sat down together at the Super Bowl to announce that AOL is acquiring the Huffington Post for $315 million.
The two media titans described the merger not so much in business terms as they did in language you would typically hear describing a match made via personals on eHarmony. Huffington told Kara Swisher of AllThingsD that she was stunned at how closely Armstrong’s vision for AOL paralleled her own vision for the Huffington Post. Likewise, Tim Armstrong told Swisher that at a certain point, he and Huffington started finishing each other’s sentences (it’s love! Check out the video below).
The AOL/Huffington Post merger is expected to generate a combined user base of 117 million unique monthly visitors in the U.S. and 270 million around the world. Arianna Huffington, of course, doesn’t really strike one as the type to be acquired. She has a pretty strong presence in the media world and even ran for governor of California just two years before she founded the Huffington Post, which currently sees 25 million unique monthly visitors. She certainly has no plans to go quietly into the night.
Instead, she will reign as President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, which will absorb all AOL content, including Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, Black Voices, Patch, AOL Latino, AutoBlog, StyleList, and more. Huffington says that her vision as Editor-in-Chief is to tone down the focus on data and put “flesh and blood” back into journalism. She also foresees a future in which the Huffington Media Group revitalizes journalism by recruiting fresh new journalists straight out of college and grooms them to become the new media stars of tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Huffington Post will carry on business as usual and readers will still be able to find Huffington Post content at the same URL.
But what’s AOL’s angle in all of this? The company has been clear about its strategy to resurrect its tail-spinning dial-up business and reinvent itself as a content company. One of its more notable moves in recent months has been the acquisition of hyperlocal news organizations Patch.com. AOL aims to become the foremost local news source in the country by expanding Patch’s reach and recruiting journalism students straight out of school to staff the news branch.
The acquisition of the Huffington Post will likely perk up AOL’s lackluster revenues, which dropped sharply in Q4 2010. While its earnings rose to $66.2 million, up from $1.4 million in Q4 2009, its revenues took a steep dive as the company’s advertising sales and subscription dial-up business suffered.
Image source: HuffingtonPost.com