At the time, AOL's $315 million acquisition of The Huffington Post provoked skepticism and criticism all over the web. Some likened the deal to AOL's 2000 purchase of Time Warner, which proved to be a spectacular failure. However, yesterday, dire predictions were thrown off by the announcement by Business Insider that The Huffington Post has surpassed the New York Times in monthly page views - in May, HuffPo pulled in 36.6 million unique viewers against the New York Times' 35.5 million viewers. Furthermore, the Business Insider has also reported that AOL's newsroom is now larger than the New York Times'.
Can this news be considered to be concrete proof of the media giant's success?
Not quite. AOL began redirecting traffic from AOL News, one of the world's largest news sites, to the Huffington Post in early May. This news is has a double significance: not only has the Huffington Post's traffic seen an skewed upsurge due to AOL redirecting its visitors, but the news is concrete proof that AOL has abandoned its own media branch.
AOL News was once one of the largest news sites online. As traffic has plummeted in the past year, Gigoam noted that AOL has been trying to build new businesses to hold the company's legacy together as it steadily becomes more obsolete. Rather than integrating them into its established (albeit undated) empire, AOL is slowly replacing its own media with fresher prospects.
AOL's struggle to stay relevant in the digital media resulted in the purchase of Patch, a hyper-local news site, and the Huffington Post. Both sites are growing, although critics have questioned their revenue potential. AOL is past its golden age, when dial up connections and paid-for email addresses reigned. AOL's "annoying" CD campaign in the US (which ended in 2006) is associated with archaic remnants of the Internet's early years. When compared to the Huffington Post, which attracts huge numbers of comments and traffic, AOL is hopelessly outdated.
Nevertheless, AOL is working to renew itself. The Huffington Post's success is promising but still unsure, as its May statistics were inflated by the traffic redirection. However, the brand is social media savvy and attracts page views with its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, two things which AOL desperately needs. In less than a decade HuffPo has put itself on the digital press map, although we have previously questioned the journalistic integrity of the way it generates headlines to attract hits (most notably the case of "What Time Does Super Bowl Sunday Start?"). Association with the Huffington Post will surely help AOL's image, but whether it will save the media giant's revenue model is yet to see.