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AOL to buy Huffington Post
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AOL to buy Huffington Post

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AOL has agreed to buy the Huffington Post for $315 million. The move continues AOL’s strategy of acquiring big traffic content sites. Last year, AOL bought Techcrunch, a leading technology blog. The Huffington Post site draws upwards of 25 million visitors a month.

Co- founder Arianna Huffington will become president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, which will include Huffington Post and AOL content.

Here’s the official press release:

Acquisition Will Solidify AOL’s Strategy of Creating a Premier Content Network
With Local, National and International Reach

Arianna Huffington To Lead Newly Formed The Huffington Post Media Group Which Will Integrate All Huffington Post and AOL Content, Including News, Tech, Women, Local, Multicultural, Entertainment, Video, Community, and More

The New Combined Media Group Will Reach
117 Million Americans and 270 Million Globally

Group Uniquely Positioned To Redefine the Future of Brand Advertising and Marketing
For an Engaged and Influential Audience

New York, NY – February 7, 2011 – AOL Inc. [NYSE:AOL] announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire The Huffington Post, the influential and rapidly growing news, analysis, and lifestyle website founded in 2005, which now counts nearly 25 million unique monthly visitors*.

The transaction will create a premier global, national, local, and hyper-local content group for the digital age – leveraged across online, mobile, tablet, and video platforms. The combination of AOL’s infrastructure and scale with The Huffington Post’s pioneering approach to news and innovative community building among a broad and sophisticated audience will mark a seminal moment in the evolution of digital journalism and online engagement.

The new group will have a combined base of 117 million unique visitors a month in the United States and 270 million around the world**. Following the close of this transaction, AOL will accelerate its strategy to deliver a scaled and differentiated array of premium news, analysis, and entertainment produced by thousands of writers, editors, reporters, and videographers around the globe.

As part of the transaction, Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post’s Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, will be named President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL content, including Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, MapQuest, Black Voices, PopEater, AOL Music, AOL Latino, AutoBlog, Patch, StyleList, and more.

“The acquisition of The Huffington Post will create a next-generation American media company with global reach that combines content, community, and social experiences for consumers,”said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL. “Together, our companies will embrace the digital future and become a digital destination that delivers unmatched experiences for both consumers and advertisers.”

Armstrong continued, “Arianna is a singularly passionate and dedicated champion of innovative journalistic engagement, and a master of the art of using new media to illuminate, entertain and enhance the national conversation. Arianna is a remarkable person and she will continue to create remarkable outcomes for the combined company.”

“This is truly a merger of visions and a perfect fit for us,” said Huffington. “The Huffington Post will continue on the same path we have been on for the last six years – though now at light speed – by combining with AOL. Our readers will still be able to come to the Huffington Post at the same URL, and find all the same content they’ve grown to love, plus a lot more – more local, more tech, more entertainment, more finance, and lots more video. We are fusing a legendary and powerful new media brand with a vibrant, innovative news organization, known for its distinctive voice, a highly engaged audience, an expertise in community-building, and a track record for demystifying the news and putting flesh and blood on the data while drawing our audience into the conversation.”

Huffington continued, “By uniting AOL and The Huffington Post, we are creating one of the largest destinations for smart content and community on the Internet. And we intend to keep making it better and better.”

Kenneth Lerer, The Huffington Post’s Co-Founder and Chairman, said, “The Huffington Post team has created a potent brand with the proven track record of knowing how to grow traffic, inform and entertain its readers and build a one-of-a-kind online community. Add that to the powerful scale and resources of AOL and you have the perfect combination for today and the future. Together these two companies will be a premier online content provider. From local citizen reporting through AOL’s Patch, to The Huffington Post’s national reporting on politics, business and culture, consumers will have access to everything they want whenever they want it.”

AOL has agreed to purchase The Huffington Post for $315 million, approximately $300 million of which will be paid in cash funded from cash on hand. The Huffington Post is privately owned by its two cofounders, as well as a group of investors. The proposed transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of government approvals. The boards of directors of each company and shareholders of The Huffington Post have approved the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in the late first- or early second-quarter 2011.

The Huffington Post over-indexes on educated, affluent users, reaching the key decision makers in C-suites around the globe. The Huffington Post speaks to this influential audience via a host of prominent voices on its group blog. Among those who have blogged on The Huffington Post are: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Larry Page, Diane Sawyer, Buzz Aldrin, Nora Ephron, Bill Maher, Madeleine Albright, Robert Redford, Katie Couric, Neil Young, Rahm Emanuel, Mia Farrow, Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Al Franken, Ari Emanuel, Harry Shearer, Senator John Kerry, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Madonna, Lawrence Summers, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ryan Reynolds, Craig Newmark, Alec Baldwin, Aaron Sorkin, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Russell Simmons, Sean Penn, Bill Gates, Norman Lear, Charlie Rose, Elizabeth Warren, Tavis Smiley, Sheryl Sandberg, George Clooney, and former President Bill Clinton. And the audience speaks back, generating four million comments a month***.

The Huffington Post’s affluent, influential audience, that is growing at a rate of 22 percent (December 2009 vs. December 2010)****, when combined with AOL’s massive scale, video offerings and local expertise, will represent an incredibly desirable demographic for a broad range of advertising partners across the board.

Below is the internal memo AOL CEO Tim Armstrong sent to all AOL employees:

——————–
AOLers,

We are taking another major step in the comeback of AOL. Today we are announcing that we have agreed to acquire The Huffington Post, one of the most exciting, influential, and fastest growing properties on the Internet. We believe in brands, quality journalism, and the positive role of communities in the world—The Huffington Post shares our values and the combination of the two companies will create the premier global and local media company on the Internet.

Co-founded six years ago by Arianna Huffington and Ken Lerer, The Huffington Post has grown to become an industry leader—one of the Web’s most popular and innovative sources of online news, commentary, and information. Arianna and team have created a brand and a destination that focuses on the consumer experience. By combining The Huffington Post with AOL’s network of sites, thriving video offerings, local expertise and enormous reach, we will create a company that is laser-focused on serving our audiences across every platform imaginable – social, local, video, mobile and tablet.

The Huffington Post is core to our strategy and our 80:80:80 focus – 80% of domestic spending is done by women, 80% of commerce happens locally and 80% of considered purchases are driven by influencers. The influencer part of the strategy is important and will be potent.

The Huffington Post is a strong influencer brand and it attracts a valuable audience, including a great focus on women’s content. In addition, Arianna Huffington is a world-renowned expert on women’s topics and issues, and has enabled The Huffington Post to grow rapidly by continually developing new audiences.

In the local area, the combination of the two companies will create a scaled connection between global and local communities on one platform. This will create a new way for people to get local and global information in a timely and entertaining way.

The Huffington Post will join the family of AOL Brands that are destinations for an influencer audience, brands like TechCrunch, Engadget, AutoBlog, and Moviefone. Uniquely, The Huffington Post is the platform for influential people — the people that drive trends, commerce, politics, entertainment, news, and information. Adding this strategic platform to our already strong network of sites, including the AOL homepage, has the potential to make AOL the most influential company in the content space.

Arianna Huffington is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Internet space and someone that is even more successful in building communities and relationships in every corner of the globe. The Huffington Post and Arianna have created a company that has partnered with the most successful and well-known leaders in all aspects of society that touch important topics to give consumers direct access to the most influential decision makers and community leaders.

This acquisition will create a high-quality and diverse digital ecosystem encompassing local, national and international news, politics, entertainment, technology, fashion, sports, health, personal finance, green, lifestyle, the arts and more. This deal will combine the amazing talent at AOL with the innovative and talented staff of The Huffington Post. Here are just a few high-level points around what this deal brings to market:

Together, AOL and The Huffington Post will have 117MM unduplicated domestic monthly UVs, and ~270MM monthly UVs worldwide (according to comScore Dec 2010).
The Huffington Post is one of the fastest growing web properties on the Internet. It grew 22% last year – that’s faster than Twitter, which grew 18% – and 15x as quickly as the Internet grew last year (comScore Dec ’09-’10).
Both AOL and The Huffington Post count powerful, affluent users among their top loyal visitors, significantly over-indexing in $100K+ income users.
AOL passed Hulu in unique viewers on video in the fourth quarter of 2010; video views on AOL are up 400 percent year-over-year.
Between AOL’s innovative Project Devil ad unit, engaging users for 27 seconds longer than traditional display ads, and The Huffington Post’s highly-vocal community, with 4MM+ comments per month, we will marry attention-grabbing content and brand experiences for both advertisers and consumers.
In the local area, the combination of the two companies will create a premier global/local syndication network at scale. This will create a new way for people to get local and global information in a timely, informative and entertaining way.

To maximize the strategic advantage of this great deal, we will be creating a new group at AOL called The Huffington Post Media Group. Within this group will be AOL Media, AOL Local & Mapping, AOL Search and our new friends at The Huffington Post. We will continue operating the towns structure, AOL.com and HuffingtonPost.com.

I’m thrilled to announce that Arianna Huffington will join AOL’s executive team as President and Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. We have asked Jon Brod to lead the overall operational integration on the AOL side of the combined entities. Jon will lead the local group integration and work closely with David Eun and the teams in AOL Media. We will work quickly with The Huffington Post to create a combined organizational design to coincide with the deal closing. While we wait for the required regulatory reviews to be completed and the transaction to close before implementing the design, we will move very quickly to plan the details of the integration of the two companies. To this end, we will announce the new organizational structure as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we will continue creating great content and products for our consumers within the town structure and stay laser-focused on the aggressive goals we have set for our winter luge. We are on the right track and will continue our weekly operating cadence and town structure to drive successful results against our company goals.

Here’s a special message for all of you we taped to welcome The Huffington Post and Arianna to our AOL Family:

http://today.office.aol.com/company-news/2011/02/aol-agrees-buy-huffington-post

And of course we wanted to welcome Arianna to our “You’ve Got” video of the day—check her out on AOL.com.

We will be holding a company all hands meeting to address your questions related to today’s exciting news. We will video conference from our New York office on the 6th Floor at 9:30 AM ET and will be joined by Arianna Huffington and key executives from her organization. We will also be holding a call for our west coast offices at 2:00 PM ET and for our Patch offices at 2:45 PM ET. See below for meeting info (conference rooms will be sent out shortly).

AOL is playing to win…and The Huffington Post and AOL will occupy a unique place in the future of the Internet. Let’s go get it done.

–TA



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