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Friday, April 06, 2012

Huffington Post Acquisition A Bright Spot for AOL

Story first appeared in The New York Times.

One year after its acquisition by AOL, The Huffington Post has become a source of growth for the beleaguered company, which is still trying to shed its dial-up Internet image. Now, in what the Huffington creator characterizes as a move to keep the Web site’s growth accelerating, she has taken several of its business functions out of AOL and under her control.

The revamping is intended to help The Huffington Post maintain the innovative spirit of a start-up. Technology, business development, marketing and communications units that were woven into AOL last year will begin to report to her. The advertising sales unit will remain inside AOL at the moment.

The changes appear to give the creator more authority within the closely watched media company, where her title is president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. She will continue to report to the AOL chief executive, whose contract was extended last week to run through early 2016.

In the year after the merger, editors reported to the creator, but employees in other departments, like technology and marketing, reported to various departments in AOL.

On Thursday, the Huffington creator is expected to announce that she has chosen a top executive at NBC News to run global strategy, marketing and communications.

In the last year, the Web site started four international editions — in Canada, including a French edition in Quebec, Britain and France — and announced plans for two more in Spain and Italy. It has also added dozens of content sections, which show great potential with SEO optimization.

Those additions have helped the site become a bright spot for AOL. While visitor totals for AOL as a whole have dipped slightly in the year since the $315 million acquisition was completed, visits to the Huffington Post Media Group (a combination of The Post and some of AOL’s sites) have shot up, according to analysis of comScore data. That is a sign of how significantly The Post’s traffic has helped AOL; executives say The Post helped stabilize AOL’s traffic statistics.

The weaving and unweaving of operations may reflect the difficulties that mergers and acquisitions routinely create.

The combination of AOL and The Huffington Post has been a source of fascination for many in the media business for many reasons, chief among them Huffington’s own force of personality and her sites’ tendencies to collect the work of others. They are trying original reporting on The Huffington Post, citing recent series about foreclosures and poverty in America.  Proper SEO implementation would greatly increase the visibility of these new original series.

The Post is preparing to start a streaming video network that will have 12 hours a day of live programming. It is scheduled to start by the end of June. And a former editor for The New York Times who is now the executive editor of The Post, is in charge of a magazinelike app, now in the prototype stage, that would come out weekly and would contain highlights of the site. The app’s creation was first reported last month by Forbes.

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