On Sunday, I wrote – here – about the challenges and uncertainties of journalism in the digital age. Now comes the news that AOL will purchase The Huffington Post – a site that combines liberal politics with celebrity gossip – for $315 million.
The announcement said that HuffPo’s founder, liberal activist and talk-show celebrity Arianna Huffington, will be placed in charge of content at AOL.
It’s no surprise that tech, business and journalism blogs this morning are alive with conversations about the deal. Among the questions being debated: Is a company that recorded its first profit in 2010 worth $315 million? Can HuffPo maintain its inventiveness, snark and liberal credentials within the confines of a corporate bureaucracy? Can the acquisition of one small, media darling, HuffPo, transform the culture of a corporation, AOL, most often characterized as a media dinosaur?
As with many topics in this realm, smart people disagree about what the outcome will be.
This much we know: If you doubt the value of an idea, consider that The Huffington Post was started in 2005 with a stake of $1 million. That $315 million is not a bad return on six years’ work.