Has the Huffington Post jumped the shark?
The news this week that AOL bought the Huffington Post for $315 million has been met with outrage by many readers and, worse, by the hundreds, if not thousands of bloggers who contribute free content to the site.
Comments on the Huffington Post’s announcement about the sale have been hugely negative. Many writers and bloggers for the site have vowed to quit and some have even deleted their content. The magazine AdBusters has called for a boycott of the Huffington Post:
“Socialite Arianna Huffington built a blog-empire on the backs of thousands of citizen journalists. She exploited our idealism and let us labor under the illusion that the Huffington Post was different, independent and leftist. Now she’s cashed in and three thousand indie bloggers find themselves working for a megacorp.”
Media pundit and Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy wondered on his blog Media Nation today whether AOL had a MySpace problem with the Huffington Post. In other words, would former scrappy and independent Huffington Post wither away under the leadership of a corporate conglomerate.
The root of the problem is the Huffington Post’s business model. The blog has a small cache of paid employees, but the majority of the content is supplied by unpaid bloggers – many journalists, writers and freelancers who post content at the Huffington Post to drive traffic to their own blogs and online publications. The idea being that the Huffington Post was a free and popular town square where people went for engagement and conversation.
But will these writers and bloggers be willing to continue contributing free content to AOL, a for-profit media corporation?
The early reactions are not good for AOL. Here is a sampling of reaction.
Tina Dupuy at FishBowlLA:
“(The Huffington Post) was a public square and a not yet profitable media start up. That was almost six years ago. Now it’s a billion dollar media empire that refuses to pay freelancers.”
Here’s Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:
“Did Arianna Huffington just sell out her fellow progressives? In the literal sense, she undoubtedly has. The sale of the Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million (with a large pile of cash going to Huffington herself) means this powerful liberal voice is formally joining the ‘corporate media’ its writers have long disparaged.”
From Al Giordano of the Field (who removed all of his content from the Huffington Post):
“This saga is, sadly, not the first or last case of a blogger or online renegade that ended up becoming swallowed by the very same inhuman mass media conglomeration that it claimed it had set out to oppose. Good luck to Huffington and company, but they’ll have to cross back to the other side of the bridge without me.”
It will be interesting to watch this “saga” unfold.
What do you think? Did Arianna Huffington make a mistake in selling to AOL? Can the Huffington Post continue to thrive as part of the for-profit mainstream media?
AdBuster’s calls for HuffPost boycott
Media Nation’s “Will HuffPo prove to be AOL’s MySpace?”
FishBowlLA’s “Huffington Post Defends Itself: An Analysis”
Dana Milbank’s “Arianna Huffington’s Ideological Transformation”