Jeff Bercovici at Forbes wrote a significant takedown of Arianna Huffington and AOL following its merger with Huffington Post. While the piece was generally complimentary toward AOL’s Tim Armstrong, the theme was that his decision to take on Huffington could be AOL’s undoing. Here are the top six reasons from the article why things for AOL seem doomed with Huffington at the helm.
1. Huffington forced the AOL buyout: “Other partners wanted an IPO rather than building up the company to be acquired by another media company… In effect, she subverted the wishes of the board. The deal was in no small part her doing, and she did not intend to pass it up.”
2. Huffington might not be that important: Tim Armstrong “may have overestimated Huffington’s importance to the operation.”
3. Huffington is expensive: “Huffington has been on an extravagant hiring binge for months, sweeping up journalists from the New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, and elsewhere with some extraordinary pay packages, at least by the standards of journalism.”
4. Huffington fired a lot of good people: “To make room for HuffPo transplants, AOL laid off most of its writers and editors as part of a 900-person workforce reduction after the merger was finalized in early March… Many new HuffPo hires simply replaced equally pedigreed reporters and editors AOL brought in two years ago in its last big original-content push.”
5. Huffington has taken on more than she can chew: Counting Patch’s 800-plus editors, she now has around 1,300 full-time journalists working for her. “Arianna’s a world-class politician, a world-class media maven and a genius at p.r., but she’s not an experienced manager,” says Greg Coleman, HuffPo’s former chief revenue officer.
6. Things at AOL aren’t going that well either: Patch, AOL’s network of 800-plus local news websites that Armstrong helped to found and then had AOL acquire in 2009, is blowing through $40 million a quarter without generating meaningful revenue.