The Huffington Post has merged with AOL -- or, as J.P. Freire put it, it was "bought by that annoying CD distribution company from 10 years ago." Scott Rosenberg has an interesting take on the deal:
People think of Huffington Post as the leading popular liberal-Democratic news site. Huffington is now at least suggesting that the progressive point of view isn't a part of what she'll be pursuing at AOL. "Ms. Huffington said her politics would have no bearing on how she ran the new business," says the NY Times story. Really? This strikes me as strange, disingenuous, and about as credible as Roger Ailes claiming that Fox is not a partisan-driven institution.
One possibility is, Huffington is just saying what the corporate script requires and actually the plan is to position AOL as a sort of Democratic alternative to Fox News/Drudge -- which I think would be a really interesting move. I have to assume Arianna has big TV ambitions; I have yet to meet a new-media empire builder who didn't secretly yearn to do an Ailes (or an Oprah).
The other, more likely possibility is that this whole thing is about the money, the investors needed to cash out, HuffPo's numbers weren't looking good enough for an IPO, and Huffington is basically improvising. She'll spend a couple years at AOL and then move on. This means that, in 2011, Huffington Post will be playing the same role in relation to AOL that AOL played in relation to Time Warner back in 2000: selling itself at the top of a market bubble, pocketing the profit from a sale that couldn't be earned from customers, and leaving a bigger, older company with all the headaches.