AOL’s $315 million Huffington Post buy is a daring venture, and not just because its success depends on the news website’s ability to turn a profit. The real risk is that the political views of Arianna Huffington — the new head of AOL’s recently formed media group — have the potential to turn off advertisers:
Under the $315 million acquisition agreement, Huffington, 60, will join AOL and become president and editor-in-chief of a newly formed media group. In the position, she’ll oversee all of New York-based AOL’s content, from the TechCrunch blog to the Patch local news sites to new content initiatives.
While the goal is to help AOL become a more powerful force in online advertising, there’s a risk in putting Huffington in charge of editorial, said Rob Enderle, a San Jose, California-based technology consultant. Her political views, often critical of corporations and Republicans, may be polarizing, he said.
Business Week notes that Huffington’s politics have scared off advertisers in the past: “In 2001, FedEx Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co., now part of Sears Holdings Corp., pulled their advertising from ABC television’s ‘Politically Incorrect’ after Huffington and host Bill Maher described past U.S. military actions as cowardly.”
Huffington may moderate herself in new position at AOL. But if she continues to put out the type of content that she’s previously published at the Huffington Post, then it’s easy to see why advertisers might be hesitant to sign on.
Here’s just a reminder of some of the most vicious and deplorable posts and columns the Huffington Post has published over the years:
Tony Snow deserved to get cancer: “I hear about Tony Snow and say to myself, well, stand up every day, lie to the American people at the behest of your dictator-esque boss and well, how could a cancer NOT grow in you,” wrote Charles Karel Bouley on March 22, 2007. “Work for Fox News, spinning the truth in to a billion knots and how can your gut not rot?”
Vice President Cheney should die of a heart attack: “I give thanks O Lord for Dick Cheney’s Heart, that brave organ which has done its darn-tootin’ best on four separate occasions to do what we can only dream about,” wrote Tony Hendra on November 23, 2006. “O Lord, give Dick Cheney’s Heart, Our Sacred Secret Weapon, the strength to try one more time! For greater love hath no heart than that it lay down its life to rid the planet of its Number One Human Tumor.”
Republican voters are the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan: “Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid rich kids like George W. Bush?” wrote John Cusack on Nov. 11, 2005. “They are the racists and hate mongers among us — they are the Ku Klux Klan.”
Cheney should be killed with Osama bin Laden’s dead body: “I gather up the body of the world’s most notorious terrorist and hurl it over the balcony,” wrote Alec Baldwin on July 4, 2006. “Then, in the final stroke of luck, Bin Laden lands on Dick Cheney. God bless America.”
And these are just a few of the many examples that weren’t too vulgar to reprint. If Huffington can manage to run AOL’s new media empire without sinking to publishing these types of base and hateful “news” articles, then it could be a great success. But if not, advertisers should run in the other direction.