Of the more than 100 discussion links Mediagazer has indexed on the matter of AOL purchasing The Huffington Post in the 11 hours since the deal was announced, there can't be more than a dozen original thoughts.
There are those that parse the deal itself, still best handled by the pros like Kara Swisher at the Wall Street Journal who offers the best recap of the numbers; or those that offer a play by play of how the deal came together.
There are those that speculate about what the deal "means" for AOL and its marketing and business plans, for The Huffington Post, for other media properties AOL has launched or purchased in recent years (of which the Queen of all Media will now be editrix in chief), for the future of journalism, for the media industry, for blogs, for Huffington's investors, for personnel now in or out at the combined venture, for the legion of unpaid bloggers to which HuffPo redirects traffic.
AOL to Buy Huffington Post; Tim Armstrong says "1 + 1 will equal 11" (NYTimes) http://nyti.ms/g3QFHN Really? That wasn't my experience, the AOL founder tweeted, before backtracking to tweet that is was all in jest.
For the parties to the deal itself the acquisition looks like a no-brainer. AOL buys things it desperately needs: traffic, ad inventory, and perhaps most importantly, talent not least in the person of Huffington herself whose ubiquitous, Gaboresque presence on every global media platform has done more to drive traffic to HuffPo than anything else. For Huffington and her investors the $315 million deal, nearly all cash, delivers a huge payday at a 10X trailing revenue multiple that was perfectly described by MediaMemo's Peter Kafka as "a very pre-Lehman multiple."
Whether the deal works for the parties remains to be seen and will depend on the same things that matter in all mergers--how well the cultures of the two parties mesh, how effectively the principals can work together, what efficiencies can be wrought from a combining of sales operations--as well as the peculiarities of dealing with a media property so structurally tied to a single personality. Like her or not, Arianna Huffington is, to the portal that bears her name, what Martha Stewart or Oprah Winfrey are to their media empires.
There's also the matter of the particular challenge of Internet media itself. The Net is of course a participant's platform, not a consumer's platform, which makes sustaining a portal of any sort--even one that is as canny a mix of original and curated content as HuffPo--a little bit like trying to turn a tsunami into a hydroelectric plant. You can build turbines as quickly as possible, redirect the torrent as efficiently possible, but the water will flow where it will. Will unpaid bloggers, and media properties to which HuffPo links, continue to be satisfied with the traffic the portal sends their way?
Traditional media outlets have bemoaned the Huffington Post's habit of aggregating the first few paragraphs of other sites' stories, calling them traffic and revenue leaches. My experience has been just the opposite: getting picked up by the Huffington Post has lead to a huge number of readers coming to read our articles here at ReadWriteWeb, writes Marshall Kirkpatrick.
Or will they turn HuffPo's business model on its ear now that there's a deep pocketed sugar daddy writing checks? Or will some next gen frame for encapsulating DIY media just come along and eat HuffPo's lunch?
Emerging from all the arm chair punditry one fact is clear: nearly 20 years into the Internet media revolution, while new modes of communication and new forms of content have emerged, no new business model has developed. It's still all about the old verities of advertising--eyeballs and valueable demographics as Armstrong's staff memo made crystal clear.
And speaking of arm chair punditry, the most perverse take on the whole matter this morning came from veteran journalist and HuffPo employee Howard Fineman who offereda bizarre and defensive arguement in favor of armchair vs. shoe leather reporting:
I've tried to follow my Columbia prof's advice, traveling in and reporting about 49 states (North Dakota, here I come); traveling privately and on fellowships to more than 40 countries; earning a law degree and writing a book on American history.
I have been lucky to ride waves of change in the business. I began in the days of three-ply copybooks, manual typewriters and glue pots, and have worked for a local community newspaper, a regional newspaper (The Courier-Journal in Louisville), Newsweek magazine, msnbc.com, CNN and now NBC and MSNBC.
When I succeed in doing anything worthwhile, it invariably was when I picked up the phone to make one last call, or read another document, or went to the Hill or the White House instead of calling, or got on a plane to get outside the Beltway, or drove across Des Moines or Little Rock or Austin for one more interview.
Today it's one more web site or tweet or video clip or email. But I'm still going there. You're welcome to come with me.
Can we really "go there" without going anywhere? That sounds like a lazy man's revolution.