Emily Bell Slams Huff Post/AOL Merger

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Ben Cohen
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My friend Emily Bell over at the Guardian isn't too impressed with the Huff Post/AOL marriage, pointing out the latter's rather tragic track record of previous mergers and former's unique outsider culture that looks set to be compromised:

Part of Huffington Post's success was its vibrance and its position outside the establishment. It has now not only joined an establishment, but joined one where most people feel about as close to the brand as they do to Walmart.

One has to wonder in this context what is in it for Arianna Huffington (apart of course from a substantial part of the $300m)? What Huffington Post delivered her was a perfect platform for high-profile politicking and talking about her interests, which are wide ranging. The daily grind of editorial wrangling within a large corporate entity is a million miles from the start-up loft of Huffington Post's early days and the next phase of development carries none of the fun and much more of the risk than the early days.

I'm still not sure where I stand on this topic, but I think Emily does make some valid points. I'm still excited at the prospect of more journalist jobs and more political coverage, but there is a worry that some of the Huff Post's dynamism will go as it loses its ability to make the big decisions.

Bob Cesca, one of the site's most prominent bloggers writes the following:

I've been assured that nothing will change, and I hope that's true. Again, it's really been the blog that makes that site great, and it would be a shame if voices were tempered or silenced. I hope AOL understands this. I really hope. I wrote for AOL's Walletpop blog last year and the arrangement didn't work out very well. We'll see what happens this time around.

So fingers crossed.

Corporate mergers can be done well, or they can be done badly. It depends on the people involved and the sensitivity they show when the different cultures meet and have to work together. Can the Huff Post and AOL create the ultimate media super power while maintaining its authenticity? Given the characters involved, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility. Arianna Huffington truly is a force of nature, and it's hard to see anyone pushing her around.

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