Media

AOL picks up The Huffington Post for $315M — so who's next?

NOTE: GrowthBeat tickets go up $200 this Friday at 5pm Pacific. VentureBeat is gathering the best and brightest in modern digital marketing to help declutter the landscape, simplify the functions, clarify the goals, and point the way to success. Get the full scoop here, and register by Friday to save!

AOL has agreed to buy The Huffington Post, the fast-growing Internet-publishing startup backed by a controversial political figure, for $315 million in its third major acquisition of a power player in online media.

AOL is essentially handing over its publishing operations to the Huffington Post in the deal. The site’s eponymous cofounder, Arianna Huffington, will become editor-in-chief of all of AOL’s news content and oversee every media group within AOL’s network. That includes AOL News, PoliticsDaily, BlackVoices, SlashFood, and TechCrunch, which AOL recently acquired for $25 million.

A recent leak of AOL’s growth strategy for its media division showed a business ruthlessly devoted to generating more traffic through increased frequency of publication, better search-engine optimization, and more recruitment of talented writers and editors. The new way sets ambitious goals for site editors, requiring writers to post 5 to 10 stories a day and generate at least 7,000 hits per story.

Picking up The Huffington Post, of course, immediately ramps up the number of stories AOL publishes and brings a stable of well-known celebrities, like Alec Baldwin, and Deepak Chopra, who contribute blog posts to the site.

The deal is not without its difficulties. Arianna Huffington, famous for holding a few grudges herself, now must settle feuds like the insider war of words between the top editors of Engadget and TechCrunch, two well-read technology blogs in AOL’s stable. Also of note is a lawsuit filed by two Democratic power players over who originally came up with the idea for The Huffington Post, which was originally conceived as a left-wing alternative to the right-leaning Drudge Report, a headline-news aggregator.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, known as a dealmaker, hardly seems like he’s stopping anytime soon. The only thing that might slow him down: a lack of new targets. There aren’t many broad-topic media companies left which would make a visible difference in AOL’s traffic and revenue.

So AOL and its competitors — a group which ranges from online-media giants like Yahoo to old-line companies like News Corp., CBS, NBC Universal, and even AOL’s former parent company, Time Warner — look like they are better off snapping up the top players in specific categories like sports news, celebrity gossip, and the like.

Audience-measureent startup QuantCast’s list of the largest sites provides a useful guide. The first easily acquired online-media startup to pop up on the list: Zimbio.com, based in San Carlos, Calif. The site stacked with celebrity news and editorially curated. And it fits right in with AOL’s more aggressive efforts to tailor its content to display prominently on search engines like Google and Microsoft’s Bing.

Among media sites that target women with topics like fashion and gossip, Sugar Inc. and Glam Media, two other Bay Area startups, might seem attractive. But Yahoo and NBC already attract large audience with women’s properties like Yahoo’s Shine and OMG and NBC’s iVillage and Oxygen.

AOL recently bowed out of the sports-publishing business by doing a content deal with Sporting News, sidelining its Fanhouse site. But SB Nation, run by former AOL executive Jim Bankoff and backed by venture-capital firm Accel Partners, might find a home in another media empire.

The list goes on. Who’s next? Suggest your own deals in the comments.

[Photo: World Economic Forum]

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Yahoo does buy Hulu, the company could easily follow the same strategy pursued by AOL, which acquired the Huffington Post in February and installed Arianna Huffington as editor of all [...]

  2. [...] spearheading talks to potentially sell the company earlier this year. The talks fell apart after AOL acquired the Huffington Post for $315 million and Salon’s board wondered whether it was worth more than what it was being offered for, [...]

  3. [...] to Newser, an aggregation site founded by Michael Wolff, but they fell through in February after AOL acquired the Huffington Post for $315 million and Salon’s board reportedly wondered whether it should increase its asking [...]

  4. [...] two years since its divestiture from Time Warner. CEO Tim Armstrong has been incredibly aggressive, acquiring the Huffington Post, the leading online pure play for news, restructuring Aol’s various blog properties, and [...]

  5. [...] has been growing rapidly since it was acquired by AOL for $315 million earlier this year. Today’s news is a sign that the site has no intention of slowing down [...]

  6. [...] has been growing rapidly since it was acquired by AOL for 5 million earlier this year. Today’s news is a sign that the site has no intention of slowing down [...]

  7. [...] has been growing rapidly since it was acquired by AOL for $315 million earlier this year. Today’s news is a sign that the site has no intention of slowing down [...]

  8. [...] has been growing rapidly since it was acquired by AOL for $315 million earlier this year. Today’s news is a sign that the site has no intention of slowing down anytime [...]

  9. [...] Over the past few years, AOL has attempted to shift away from its roots as a dial-up internet service provider in favor growing its media and advertising business. The company has also made a number of high-profile acquisitions since 2009, including the $25 million purchase of TechCrunch and the $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post. [...]

  10. [...] Over the past few years, AOL has attempted to shift away from its roots as a dial-up internet service provider in favor growing its media and advertising business. The company has also made a number of high-profile acquisitions since 2009, including the $25 million purchase of TechCrunch and the $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post. [...]

  11. [...] in part to poor profit returns on acquisitions, like the $25 million purchase of TechCrunch and the $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post. The company has also suffered from a number of top-level talent losses this [...]

  12. [...] The news does not bode well for AOL, which has been struggling to keep its online media business alive. In December 2011, major AOL shareholder Starboard Value LP warned Chief Executive Tim Armstrong that his media strategy wasn’t paying off.  After AOL’s dial-up Internet service became outdated, the company shifted its focus towards media and advertising. In doing so, AOL purchased TechCrunch for $25 million and The Huffington Post for $315 million. [...]

  13. [...] Post was founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005. It is owned by AOL, which acquired the blog last year for $315 million. Last year, the site announced it had achieved the landmark of one billion pageviews in a single [...]

  14. [...] Post was founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005. It is owned by AOL, which acquired the blog last year for $315 million. Last year, the site announced it had achieved the landmark of one billion pageviews in a single [...]

  15. [...] of all AOL media properties in February 2011 after her Huffington Post news site was purchased by AOL for $315 million. Since then many leaders at AOL’s other publications have expressed negativity for working [...]

  16. [...] of all AOL media properties in February 2011 after her Huffington Post news site was purchased by AOL for $ 315 million. Since then many leaders at AOL’s other publications have had trouble working under her, [...]

  17. [...] of all AOL media properties in February 2011 after her Huffington Post news site was purchased by AOL for $315 million. Since then many leaders at AOL’s other publications have had trouble working under her, [...]

  18. [...] the company has made since 2009, including the $25 million purchase of TechCrunch and the $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post. The lower traffic/audience numbers in Q1 could also add credibility to the rumor that AOL may be [...]

  19. [...] Post before Buzzfeed, and now Buzzfeed has raised more than the Huffington Post did before it was acquired by AOL for $315 [...]

  20. [...] before Buzzfeed, and now Buzzfeed has lifted some-more than a Huffington Post did before it was acquired by AOL for $315 [...]

  21. [...] Post was founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005. It is owned by AOL, which acquired the blog last year for $315 million. Last year, the site announced it had achieved the landmark of one billion pageviews in a single [...]

  22. […] Post before Buzzfeed, and now Buzzfeed has raised more than the Huffington Post did before it was acquired by AOL for $315 […]