The news of AOL's $315 million acquisition of Huffington Post yesterday stunned the media world whose pundits didn't see the deal coming at all.
Loyal HuffPo readers reacted swiftly, angrily and in large numbers. Many of them tossed off hasty posts accusing founder Ariana Huffington and her management team of selling out, sure that the acquisition will ultimately mean that HuffPo will lose its decidedly Liberal edginess in the presumed suffocation of a mega-media outfit known less for thoughtful journalism and support for Liberal causes than for bad grammar ("You've Got Mail!") and a least-common-denominator approach to content.
I'm not so sure. I'm not one of those HuffPo fanatics who feel personally betrayed at the possible loss of a home on the Lefty Web. But I am a relatively frequent if selective reader of HuffPo. AOL may seem to be trying to gain editorial control here, but if that's their intent they have a strange way of approaching it. They've made Ariana the chief of the newly forming Huffington Post Media Group which will encompass all of HuffPo's present content and all of AOL's content as well. Ms. Huffington is not a shrinking violet and she's not likely to take kindly to anyone attempting to censor her properties. The AOL folks know that.
I suspect this may turn out to be a big win for HuffPo faithful (at least those who stay around and those who come slinking back as the worst outcome doesn't materialize) and for the Political Left, which will at last have a major media vehicle that is at least not predisposed to ignore or attack it. Surely there will also be a significant decrease now in the share-of-site devoted to politics but that was already in Ariana's 2011 game plan. More celebrity news, sports coverage, bimbo content and other such drivel will undoubtedly proliferate. And it is inevitable that there will be cause conflict between conservative and liberal viewpoints across the board. But I doubt Ariana is ready to hang up her hard-earned Lefty cred at this point as she's become a powerful influencer in that arena.
This is going to be interesting to watch, trust me.