OK, so it’s February 7th, not April 1st, and looks like AOL really did agree to buy the Huffington Post. For $315 million. Not an April Fools joke.
AOL already owns Engadget, TechCrunch, Patch, and other specialized content sites. Huffington Post brings 177 million U.S. visitors and 270 million global visitors to the party. HuffPo co-founder and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington will become president and editor-in-chief of a new entity within AOL to be called The Huffington Post Media Group. It will contain all those many AOL content sites. Leaving will be HuffPo co-founder and chairman Kenneth Lerer; president and chief revenue officer Greg Coleman; and CEO Eric Hippeau (who old-timers in the information industry may remember as one-time head of Information Access Company before it was acquired by Gale).
In an internal memo, published by TechCrunch, AOL’s Tim Armstrong called the deal “another major step in the comeback of AOL.”
There will be lots of chatter, I’m sure, about what this means for the search industry (will the search engine pundits begin talking about Google, Bing, and AOL as the major players?), for the news industry (the acquisition of an online news service proves that print is dead?), and for the investing environment (AOL trades on the New York Stock Exchange). What about information professionals? Should we begin to add AOL searching to our repertoire? I’m looking forward to how our speakers at WebSearch University next month will chime in on this, but in the meantime, it seems to me that anyone who was already following HuffPo or TechCrunch or Engadget, or any of the rest of AOL’s content sites, will continue to do so. The deal will close late first quarter or early second quarter, 2011. Unless Huffington decides to integrate all the AOL content into one huge database, which strikes me as unwieldy, info pros will still tend to look at individual sites rather than search AOL. Remember, too, that AOL search relies on Google technology.
With all these content sites, does AOL now qualify as a “content farm” — like the content farms that Blekko says it’s now excluding from search results, according to, among others, Search Engine Land? Should be interesting to watch developments.