When Arianna Huffington addresses her new colleagues at AOL for the first time on Friday, she may notice gaps in the crowd. That's because the company is the process of laying off 200 editorial staffers to make room for the influx of Huffington Post talent. But what role will the $315 million woman play in this new news organization? Her official new title--"president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group"--doesn't convey much about what's expected of her in the new venture. Here's what people in and out of the know are expecting
In an internal memo obtained yesterday by Business Insider, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong seemed unsure about how Huffington will be utilized. He praises her "leadership and vision" and promises that "[a]s President and Editor-in-Chief, Arianna will lead the content vision." Sounds like lots of seeing and looking! It's not entirely clear how this visionary approach fits with Armstrong's stated strategy of providing "high quality content experiences for consumers, at scale" as a means of revitalizing the faltering Internet giant.
New York Times executive Bill Keller concedes Huffington has a "instinctive genius for aggregation," but notes that "buying an aggregator and calling it a content play is a little like a company’s announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter." For AOL to get its money worth, Huffington will need maintain her recent "back-to-the-future epiphany" on the value of original reporting and tend to her "small stable of experienced journalists" in the hope they can continue to "produce original journalism about business and politics."
Wired's Sam Gustin observes that "one of Arianna’s greatest strengths is her ability to surround herself with talented people," an asset she'll need if she wants to fix what currently ails the website"One need only look at the website," writes Gustin, "to see that the majority of the content is 'curated' from other websites, or AP copy, or just random SEO-driven blog posts by Arianna’s stable of 2,000 celebrity bloggers and paid news aggregators." She may be the figurehead, but she'll also "surround herself once again with talented people to do mundane things like assign stories, report them and write them" in order to realize Armstrong's vision.