Traffic obsessed Armstrong brings Huff Post to AWOL

The AOL has bought the Huffington Post, one of America’s best papers that isn’t afraid to kick dirt in the eye of the exaggerated Fox News network. Tim Armstrong, CEO at AOL, is pushing aggressive journalism in a bid to set profits blazing. He bought Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch recently and the HuffPo was no doubt a carefully considered move.

What can this mean for the Huffington Post? Founded in 2005 by Arrianna Huffington is has been at the front of what fans would call progressive journalism and detractors would ring in that cliche, bleeding heart Liberal. How will the content change, if at all?

There’s no real way to know just yet. Arianna Huffington has been posted to Editor in Chief of all AOL content so it is unlikely that either TechCrunch of the Huffington will see a drastic change in their strategies. Unless it all goes pear-shaped and the SEO-optimised click-rate, shortsighted vision of Armstrong takes hold.

Earlier this month, BusinessInsider managed to get its hands on a document detailing Armstrong’s editorial view the future among other ins-and-outs of the upcoming media empire. It’s a copywriting sweatshop, with the legion of staff working on about ten stories a day. It’s possible to work on ten a day but it doesn’t leave much room for considered creativity or, vitally, investigative journalism. 

Which leads on to one striking point from the document – how content and topics will be decided by, yeah, click rates. “Traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turn-around time” are the four factors Armstrong thinks makes good news. Still, two powerhouses on side – with one, namely TechCrunch, having said already it is not going to bow to the whims of internet wizardry just for hits – mean AOL may well be on the “comeback” Armstrong says.

In an internal memo to AOL staff, called “AOLers,” Armstrong rates traffic in “just a few high-level points”. Together AOL and the Huff will “have 117mm unduplicated domestic monthly unique visitors, and 270mm monthly unique visitors worldwide.” Again, think money: “Both AOL and The Huffington Post count powerful, affluent users among their top loyal visitors, significantly over-indexing in $100k+ income users.” That’s an attractive proposition for advertisers. 

Armstrong, or TA, signs off by saying: “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.” From hated service provider to media moguls – AOL is worth keeping an eye on.

By the way, Tim, Arianna, we are up for sale.