AOL buys Huffington Post for $315 million

Struggling online media company AOL has announced it has entered into a definitive deal to acquire the news, analysis, politics, and lifestyle site The Huffington Post for some $315 million. AOL views the acquisition as a means to create a “premiere global, national, local, and hyper-local content group for the digital age” by combining The Huffington Post’s approach to news and community building with AOL’s broader infrastructure and content sharing deals.

aol buys huffington post for 315 million feb 2011

“The acquisition of The Huffington Post will create a next-generation American media company with global reach that combines content, community, and social experiences for consumers,”said AOL chair and CEO Tim Armstrong, in a statement. “Together, our companies will embrace the digital future and become a digital destination that delivers unmatched experiences for both consumers and advertisers.”

“This is truly a merger of visions and a perfect fit for us,” said Huffington. “The Huffington Post will continue on the same path we have been on for the last six years—though now at light speed—by combining with AOL. Our readers will still be able to come to the Huffington Post at the same URL, and find all the same content they’ve grown to love, plus a lot more.”

Under the deal, Arianna Huffington will remain on board as editor-in-chief of both AOL’s and The Huffington Post’s combined editorial properties—and that includes AOL properties like Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, Black Voices, PopEater, AOL Latino, AutoBlog, Patch, and StyleList. AOL says the acquisition will push forward its strategy to engage a broad, sophisticated audience with content from thousands of writers, reporters, and others around the world.

Although AOL has made some high-profile acquisition in recent times—including acquiring sites like Engadget, buying then unloading social network Bebo, and more recently buying controversial technology blog TechCrunch, the $315 million acquisition of The Huffington Post represents the single largest buy since current AOL CEO Tim Armstrong came on board back in 2008.

AOL, once the dominant gateway to the Internet in the U.S. market, has fallen on hard times and struggled to convert itself into an ad-supported content company in the wake of its separation from Time-Warner in 2009. The Huffington Post acquisition could mark a bold move to put the struggling AOL back into the top tier of Internet companies—making it a prime destination for “smart content and community.” However,the move could also backfire if AOL is unable to manage the combined properties, content pools, and identities in a comprehensible manner…and AOL’s history of managing its acquisitions isn’t exactly stellar. The acquisition also comes just after leaked AOL documents appear to describe a company survival strategy based on being little more than a content-farm for search-optimized pieces.

The Huffington Post was founded in 2005 and currently boasts about 25 million unique monthly visitors—AOL says the combined enterprise will be able to reach some 117 million Americans and more than 270 million people around the world.

Huffington was a popular conservative political commentator in the 1990s for outlets like the National Review, but performed a now-famous about-face and became an outspoken proponent of liberal causes by the and of the 1990s. Huffington briefly ran for governor of California before co-founding the Huffington Post.