Huff Post + AOL = no good
Hard Lessons from the HuffPost Sale
U.S. progressive media has had a tough few weeks. First, Keith Olbermann, the pioneer for liberal programming during MSNBC’s evening hours, was sent packing. Then, Arianna Huffington allowed AOL to subsume her Huffington Post into AOL’s right-of-center content for the price tag of $315 million.
|Share this article|
Leftist bloggers who had provided free content to Huffington Post, enabling it to become a valuable property, found themselves quite literally sold out, with Huffington pocketing $18 million while making clear that she won’t battle for the liberal banner inside AOL.
Huffington joined with her new boss, AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong, to declare that their focus will be on how many eyeballs can be drawn to AOL, not in pushing progressive causes.
"Arianna has the same interest we do, which is serving consumers' needs and going beyond the just straight political needs of people," Armstrong said.
For her part, Huffington noted that her Web site was already shedding its political identity, providing more celebrity news and scandal stories, including a new section devoted to divorces. While about half of the traffic was on politics a couple of years ago, she said, that is now down to about 15 percent with only one of two dozen “sections” centered on politics.
Huffington, who burst onto the national stage in the 1990s as a right-wing talker denouncing President Bill Clinton, indicated in the wake of the sale to AOL that she may be shifting her ideology again.
"It's time for all of us in journalism to move beyond left and right," Huffington told PBS's "NewsHour." "Truly, it is an obsolete way of looking at the problems America is facing."
As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, Huffington used almost the same words when she changed her political colorations a decade ago. In 2000, she told Fox News, "The old distinctions of right and left, Democrat, Republican, are pretty obsolete."
A lesson for progressives from AOL’s purchase of Huffington Post may be that they should be a bit more leery of converts from the Right, especially those who don’t explain adequately what led to their ideological switch.
While liberals seem especially eager to reward ex-conservatives by lavishing them with financial and other support, progressives might consider showing their generosity more to people who have proven their commitment to worthy causes or honest journalism with years of hard work.
...progressives behaved in an overly credulous manner toward Arianna Huffington, thrilled that someone with such an outsized media profile – gained from her service as a foot soldier in the right-wing war on Clinton – would turn the bright light of her celebrity on liberal causes and create a home for progressive content.
Having suffered these recent painful reminders of where they really stand in the thinking of corporate media, progressives may want to rethink their own media strategies, forgoing shortcuts and returning to the difficult work of building an effective media infrastructure.