The Huffington Post is a brilliantly packaged product with a particular flair for addressing the cultural and entertainment tastes of its overwhelmingly liberal audience. To grasp its business model, though, you need to picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates.
Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 9
Arianna, say it ain’t so!
I don’t mean the sale of Huffington Post, we already know that would happen. And we knew you ran your ship with a low overhead, that many good writers have contributed to HuffPo merely for the sake of advancing causes they feel strongly about. (That and four dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.)
I mean reports that you have used your shrewdness and Zsa Zsa charm to make a multimillion-dollar profit on the sale of HuffPo to AOL, a corporate dinosaur whose chairman, Tim Armstrong, wouldn’t give two stuffed grape leaves for the social consciousness you acquired in the 1990s while transitioning from a Newt Gingrich admirer to a California liberal.
What happens to the slightly left-of-center HuffPo now that it has become part of AOL’s lame effort to again become a serious media player? Is it true you recently downplayed HuffPo’s liberal identity and reminded readers that “politics” is just one of 15 sections in your infotainment vehicle? Are you gearing up for another wardrobe change?
You told Charlie Rose, “AOL has an incredible investment in video—and we intend to double down on that—a great investment in local [coverage] just in time for the Presidential election, over 800 towns already being covered by professional journalists.”
This is marvelous, but you didn’t mention that most AOL reporters are paid next to nothing, and that online news venues are feeding off what’s left of print journalism — relying on it for “content,” that is — as they help kill it. And that the end of print journalism will make mainstream news even less informative than it already is.
What happens, Arianna, to those reporters, in Philadelphia and around the country, when newspapers like the Inquirer and Daily News die? Will you fight for their right to make a decent wage at online venues, maybe even use some of your vast fortune to see that this happens?
As the Duke would say, “That’ll be the day.” More likely, you’ll continue to stroll the main deck, smiling for the cameras, as the slaves in the galley below power you to your next acquisition.