The Huffington Post is decidedly not for sale, site founder Arianna Huffington announced yesterday in Denver. That means, most likely, that they still can't find any buyer willing to pony up anything close to that $200 million figure that got leaked to the Times. This year, the hard-working HuffPoors broke a couple political stories that decidedly altered the campaign, expanded into another city, and launched lifestyle sections with great fanfare, but let's be honest with ourselves: despite their fantastic skill with PR (thanks to Arianna's charm and moneyman Ken Lerer's experience working the press), the HuffPo is still not worth the paper it's not printed on. Click to viewHere are the two interpretations of The Huffington Post that Arianna and company would like you to forget: "left-wing Drudge Report" and "unedited celebrity Livejournal." The increasingly bloated HuffPo still is mostly an unhealthy mixture of those two things, of course, but their ambitions are higher. They have to be, to justify that ridiculous internal valuation. Hence HuffPo Chicago! And, more importantly, HuffPo Living, full of bullshit local-news quality health stories, "how to beat workplace stress" listicles (or often worse: links to those listicles posted elsewhere), alternative medicine quack-bloggers, and other "grab the apolitical old women" content. (To be fair, this shit does fit in well with Arianna's moony guru-filled California lifestyle, just as the media and political sections compliment her strident populism and personal hatred of the establishment press.) And with entertainment and style sections, HuffPo now calls itself "The Internet Newspaper." Real newspapers across the nation spiral into bankruptcy, but HuffPo's overhead costs are much lower, what with not paying most of their contributors. And also what with not having any original reporting. The site is still another damn aggregator, curating and linking real work done by traditional newsgatherers. With insane raving commenters, of course. And "blogs" from Nora Ephron. [Three years later and they still call each "post" a "blog." This still drives us insane.] This is the point L.A. Times media writer James Rainey makes in his slightly bitter piece on Arianna and the site. "I confess I'm as charmed and amused by the beguiling Ms. H as anyone," he says, "but also slightly queasy about whether her Huffington Post will ever offer original content and reporting that lives up to the hype and pretty packaging." What, you're not happy with featured content like "One Millenial Speaks Out: Why I'm Enrolling in Culinary School"? [Ed. note: we wuz wrong.] But, you know, they're still working on that whole original content that will make their site actually worth what they'd like to cash out thing!
Another infusion of capital, $10 million to $20 million, is in the works, Huffington said Tuesday, to hire more reporters and editors and upgrade the site's technology. She would like to beef up political and media coverage and put at least one reporter in each of two dozen cities by the end of 2009.
Yes of course. Still. How does the "HuffPo, even if it's not worth $200 million, is still a hot commodity that you should buy for a lot of money" story keep afloat? How the hell did that $200 million number get traction in the first place? Ken Lerer, the quiet, New York-based co-founder and Chairman, certainly helps. He's got business acumen and influence, yes, but the guy also founded a PR firm once upon a time. Nina Monk's Fools Rush In, her history of AOL/Time Warner, illustrates Lerer's ability to work "with" the press:
Hah. That's the co-founder of that strident defender of media independence and transparency the Huffington Post reveling in how well he tricked the media into loving a white-collar criminal.