What does it mean?!
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AOL has announced that it will acquire the Huffington Post and place Arianna Huffington as AOL’s editor in chief. What does this mean for the media, the future of content creation and the internet at large?
1. The portal is dead.
Ten or more years ago, AOL and Yahoo, among others, staked their profits on the idea that a single curated site would be the way we would interact with content on the internet. It’s clear now that they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Your interactions online now come automated at the courtesy of your social graph. We find content through our friends and sites or apps that build on their actions.
All you have to do is take a look at the front page of HuffPo to know that Arianna Huffington is all about the verticals. The single-page single-site model is officially dead. But that doesn’t mean that one company can’t become your only stop for news.
2. AOL wants to own your consumption at all levels.
It’s ironic that only after leaving Times-Warner has AOL started looking to control your entire media input. With the rapidly expanding Patch covering hyper-local news and Huffington Post covering general national news, AOL is building a serious content ecosystem.
Endgadget, TechCruch and PopEater all show AOL’s attempts to target the niche market of content as well.
It’s clear that AOL is angling to have content for everything you could have an interest in, from the very local to the broadest national news. From here on out, you may not use a portal to find AOL content, but you will still be reading it.
3. The content farm is on its way out, long live citizen journalists.
It’s doubtful that Arianna Huffington will preside over a Demand Media-style content farm. What’s far more likely is that she will turn her signature citizen reporting strategy loose on AOL’s various web properties.
Despite AOL’s recent moves in the content farm direction, their acquisition of HuffPo means that they will be home to serious amounts of freely contributed content. Since Huffington has continually been one of the biggest proponents of citizen journalism, it’s almost certain that she will bring it to AOL in a big way.
This is great news for citizen reports and bloggers whose only wish is to have their content writ large across the web. It’s also really bad news for the growing number of unemployed professional journalists, who have, in desperation, tried to eek out a meager salary from content farming. On the plus side, Patch is hiring.
4. Journalists can have public opinions. In fact, they should.
Arianna Huffington’s success comes from a number of things, but the overriding signature of her work is her passion. Huffington is frequently on record supporting the things she cares about and the way she believes the media should work. Her passion is what made Huffington Post a success and I doubt she will stop doing the things that made her and her site newsworthy.
In fact, it was both her loud voice in politics and in media policy that attracted others to her site and motivated them to build content. Huffington’s zeal continues to do more to power Huffington Post than the site’s CMS, software or server.
It’s more clear now then it has ever been that the future of journalism lies far more in emotion than in clinical reporting.
5. AOL isn’t a joke anymore.
For a while AOL had become a bit of a dot-com punch line. They didn’t have good content, they didn’t have an understanding of web 2.0. They didn’t have a strategy. They didn’t know how to make money.
Well, that’s over now. AOL is on its way to becoming an online media giant to rival any of the traditional companies out there. When it comes to figuring out strategy and monetization they are now the ones to watch.