Online megamerger draws global audience's attention

On February 7, AOL agreed to acquire the Huffington Post for $315 million, creating a media giant with 117 million unique monthly visitors in the US and 270 million globally.

In the news

On February 7, AOL agreed to acquire the Huffington Post for $315 million, creating a media giant with 117 million unique monthly visitors in the US and 270 million globally.

Why does it matter?

The dust is finally settling following AOL's deal to acquire the progressive media outlet started by Arianna Huffington. Now, AOL has to actually integrate these two online entities into one seamless newsroom and consumer experience. For PR pros, the challenge will be in sustaining relationships.

The deal has sparked several management changes at AOL, including the departure of former Google executive David Eun as media division head.

"This kind of process is always more complicated where you're trying to combine two cultures," notes Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs, professor of professional practice, Columbia University, The Journalism School. "In cases like the Daily Beast and Newsweek, it's resulted in layoffs,"

Sreenivasan, who helped launch the Manhattan news site DNAinfo.com and for several years has jointly taught a course with Huffington Post cofounder Ken Lerer, also suggests the recent deal may be a harbinger of things to come. As for the impact these mergers could have on PR pros, he says it could mean more work, since PR people won't be able to rely on their same media connections.

But Jodi Fleisig, SVP of media strategy for Porter Novelli, notes both Huffington Post and AOL were great outreach targets before the merger. "I don't think our job changes that much," she adds. "You're still pitching exactly the same, but now you have two powerhouses combined into one, so you can increase brand visibility and exposure."

Key facts

1 Before the merger, the Huffington Post was drawing 28 million unique visitors and more than 500 million page views each month, according to comScore

2 In its most recent quarterly filing, AOL, which spun off from Time Warner in 2009, reported a 29% year- over-year drop in advertising revenue

3 The Huffington Post currently has 6,000-plus unpaid contributing bloggers, according to news reports

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