Backlash Against Huffington Post Heats Up

Did Arianna Huffington break the Magic Mirror?

Has the Huffington Post jumped the shark?

The news this week that AOL bought the Huffington Post for $315 million has been met with outrage by many readers and, worse, by the hundreds, if not thousands of bloggers who contribute free content to the site.

Comments on the Huffington Post’s announcement about the sale have been hugely negative.  Many writers and bloggers for the site have vowed to quit and some have even deleted their content.  The magazine AdBusters has called for a boycott of the Huffington Post:

“Socialite Arianna Huffington built a blog-empire on the backs of thousands of citizen journalists. She exploited our idealism and let us labor under the illusion that the Huffington Post was different, independent and leftist. Now she’s cashed in and three thousand indie bloggers find themselves working for a megacorp.”

Media pundit and Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy wondered on his blog Media Nation today whether AOL had a MySpace problem with the Huffington Post.  In other words, would former scrappy and independent Huffington Post wither away under the leadership of a corporate conglomerate.

The root of the problem is the Huffington Post’s business model.  The blog has a small cache of paid employees, but the majority of the content is supplied by unpaid bloggers – many journalists, writers and freelancers who post content at the Huffington Post to drive traffic to their own blogs and online publications.  The idea being that the Huffington Post was a free and popular town square where people went for engagement and conversation.

But will these writers and bloggers be willing to continue contributing free content to AOL, a for-profit media corporation?

The early reactions are not good for AOL.  Here is a sampling of reaction.

Tina Dupuy at FishBowlLA:

“(The Huffington Post) was a public square and a not yet profitable media start up.  That was almost six years ago.  Now it’s a billion dollar media empire that refuses to pay freelancers.”

Here’s Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:

“Did Arianna Huffington just sell out her fellow progressives? In the literal sense, she undoubtedly has. The sale of the Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million (with a large pile of cash going to Huffington herself) means this powerful liberal voice is formally joining the ‘corporate media’ its writers have long disparaged.”

From Al Giordano of the Field (who removed all of his content from the Huffington Post):

“This saga is, sadly, not the first or last case of a blogger or online renegade that ended up becoming swallowed by the very same inhuman mass media conglomeration that it claimed it had set out to oppose. Good luck to Huffington and company, but they’ll have to cross back to the other side of the bridge without me.”

It will be interesting to watch this “saga” unfold.

What do you think?  Did Arianna Huffington make a mistake in selling to AOL? Can the Huffington Post continue to thrive as part of the for-profit mainstream media?


AdBuster’s calls for HuffPost boycott

Media Nation’s “Will HuffPo prove to be AOL’s MySpace?”

The Internet’s Free Problem

FishBowlLA’s “Huffington Post Defends Itself: An Analysis”

Dana Milbank’s “Arianna Huffington’s Ideological Transformation”

Al Giordano’s “Why I’ve Removed My Journalism from the Huffington Post”

7 Responses to “Backlash Against Huffington Post Heats Up”

  1. Had Arianna Huffington sold or merged The Huffington Post with Current TV, progressives would’ve been applauding it for being visionary enough to hook up with Al Gore’s venture (especially since Current TV had recently gotten Keith Olbermann onboard).

    But merging it with AOL is a total disaster in the making. Remember how well the AOL-Time Warner merger did? Oh, that’s right, it didn’t work at all and both units ended up going through the corporate equivalent of a divorce. And then there’s the time that AOL obtained the Bebo social networking site and mismanged it so badly that it sold Bebo for far less than what it originally paid.

    With AOL’s track record, I think Huffington Post’s best days are now behind.

  2. The fact is that what made HuffPo a site to visit was the conversations there. One could interact with a very large community of pretty smart people, overall, with a fair bet that some of them at least would be progressive, while the majority would be at least somewhat liberal-leaning. HuffPo has been tightening the screws on that community for some time now, banning users for injudiciously invoking the name of Huffington, or posting something a little too “left” for the moderators (who are simply users who for reasons not entirely clear are permitted to exercise censorship on their fellow-users). That community is falling apart, and when it drops too low to sustain the site, it will all be over. How long that will take is not entirely clear. I doubt the campaign itself will be successful overnight. What will end HuffPo is slow attrition as regular users find that many of their friends and fans have left the site.

  3. I will miss Huffington Post.Will not be visiting them now. AOL has been the kiss of death for any free thinking community for almost 20 years.

  4. Dare we think think it? AOL could be putting editorial control of everything it publishes in the hands of someone who thinks Bush should be prosecuted for Constitutional violations? How does that play in the AOL boardroom? Or is this the beginning of a journalist-versus-bean counter battle royale designed to squelch progressive passion?

    Many suspect AOL is buying Arianna’s business to muzzle her, pretending to move leftward with a hidden agenda of pacification. Will they dampen the strength and passion of liberal voices after their low-info audiences are co-mingled with HuffPo’s readership?

    more at

  5. Hi Gus,
    That sounds extremely paranoid. AOL is shelling out $315 million because they think it is a sound business decision. We can agree or disagree with that assessment, but to believe they are the puppet of a right-wing conspiracy to “muzzle” Arianna is a rather silly and ridiculous notion.


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