By KEACH HAGEY & ALEX ISENSTADT | 2/7/11 2:33 PM EST
The Huffington Post may have been founded as the liberal answer to the conservative Drudge Report, a place for progressive wound-licking in the wake of George W. Bush’s re-election.
But on Monday, Arianna Huffington was distancing herself from the lefty label as she announced the sale of HuffPost to AOL for $315 million.
“We don’t see ourselves as left,” she told POLITICO. “And I think it’s one area where news consumers are ahead of the media, because they know that continuing to see everything that’s happening as a right-left issue is missing what’s happening, and is also making it much harder for us to be properly informed.”
Some on the left worry that the sale to AOL could mean an end to HuffPost in its current incarnation — away from its roots in the progressive community, which were its first bloggers, commenters and readers, and toward a more middle-of-the-road posture, to make it more broadly appealing.
But Huffington insists that’s no change at all, and that the transition away from progressive politics has been underway for some time. In a conference call Monday morning, she pointed out that politics, once central to its brand, now makes up only 15 percent of traffic on the site, which has recently added sections dedicated to topics like college life and divorce.
The left, so far, is supportive of the deal, with some seeing it as a vindication of Huffington’s business model — in effect, proof that liberalism sells. Some liberal commentators, however, were taking a wait-and-see approach.
“At first glance, the deal will dramatically expand HuffPo’s ability to reach new audiences with its combination of original political reporting and aggregation, as well as expand the reach of the HuffPo behemoth’s tentacles into coverage of countless other areas of American life,” said Greg Sargent of the Washington Post’s Plum Line. “The question is whether the site can retain its left-leaning political voice and current freewheeling sense of community, reader participation and citizen journalism across far broader horizons, or if not, what its identity will evolve into next.”
Tina Dupuy, editor of Fishbowl LA and sometime Huffington Post contributor, said the latest move was part of a drift to the center.
“Huffington Post can either be an alternative voice, or it can be a very mainstream magazine of the Internet, and it has clearly evolved into that,” she said.
Christine Pelosi, an attorney, author and Democratic activist who occasionally blogs on the Huffington Post, wrote on POLITICO’s The Arena that she was “excited by the new venture and bemused by the left-right paradigm since Arianna evolved past that long ago.”
“To me, the more apt question is whether HuffPo’s populist voices will be Olbermanned by corporatist interests,” she said. “I sincerely doubt that the visionary contrarian author of ‘Third World America’ will let that happen to her namesake. And she won’t need to: Arianna’s $1 million investment to $315 million success proves that questioning authority is good politics and good capitalism.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/49006.html#ixzz1DPafQtCC
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