Essay: AOL Huffington Post Merger Tragedy or Triumph for Mass Media

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Huff Post

Huffington/AOL Merger

On its surface, the merger in 2011 between popular newsblog site Huffington Post and one time dial-up web access pioneer America Online would seem an unnatural pairing. The former is among the most popularly visited daily-content sites on the web whereas AOL is a name more laregely associated with the internet's early history of commercial penetration. One might perceive the latter -- a media empire now including Time-Warner among its considerable assets -- as nonetheless a lesser partner than perhaps a media group with more current cache. However, as the discussion here shows, the partnership between the two entities may well represent a perfect pairing, given their mutual interest in finding ways to present news as an entertainment commodity. As a result, we would argue here that there is a certain triumph in this merger for the field of mass communications, which sees Huffington gaining the backing and resources of a company philosophically familiar -- through such broadcast ventures as CNN -- with the proliferation of news as a brand of profitable programming content. The result is a new prototype in the context of mass communications, a site simultaneously driven by news content and community responsiveness.

In a certain respect, this has helped to reduce the force of gatekeeping in the news dimension of mass communications and has, consequently, ignited hostility from more traditional mass media outlets. Indeed, even as Huffington Post has gained considerable reputation in this area, it garners a certain degree of criticism for its orientation. For instance, Snow (2011) points out that Huffington is often skewered for its presentation of content largely borrowed from other sources as being wholly original. In this way, the site postures as a legitimate source of journalistic reporting while in actuality, its prioritization of content drives a different strategic orientation. According to the Snow text, critics such as the far more traditional journalistic institution the New York Times have characterized Huffington not as news but as "aggregation." The text indicates that "aggregation' . . . too often . . . amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model." (Snow, p. 9)

Indeed, the model would be sufficiently respected to make Huffington a commodity of tremendous value from a media perspective. Ultimately, while it could not be argued that Huffington was the reliable news outlet that it presented itself to be for its readers, it could be said that its model had succeeded in siphoning off a tremendous amount of traffic, repeat visitation and site usage. Its greatest point of virtue is the ever-expanding community of users and commenters, which helped to Huffington not just to attract the merger with AOL but ultimately to maintain strategic control over its content approach as well. Indeed, where the Huffington Post distinguishes itself from other outlets is in the active involvement of its users. This has helped to forge a new, progressive and democratic context not just for the delivery of current events but for the open discussion… [END OF PREVIEW]

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AOL Huffington Post Merger Tragedy or Triumph for Mass Media.  (2012, May 5).  Retrieved October 24, 2019, from

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"AOL Huffington Post Merger Tragedy or Triumph for Mass Media."  5 May 2012.  Web.  24 October 2019. <>.

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"AOL Huffington Post Merger Tragedy or Triumph for Mass Media."  May 5, 2012.  Accessed October 24, 2019.