In case you missed it, the Huffington Post and AOL have formed a new alliance–or rather, AOL acquired the HuffPost for $315M. Arianna Huffington’s online news site has increased in value by strategically luring the seasoned journalists to its pages who have beefed up both the quality and quantity of reporting and commentary. I generally check in because I admire stories by Senior Political Columnist Howard Fineman.
I used to think that Arianna Huffington was a complete opportunist, and I still do. But she is a very interesting woman. Remember when she was the protégé of Newt Gingrich? How times have changed. She did an about-face, left her husband about the time he lost his bid for California governor and came out of the closet. Arianna moved on. Yes, the HuffPost is gossipy, opinionated and cheesy. But it also reflects my politics and opinion, so it’s okay with me.
The journalists that the HuffPost has lured onto its pages have increased the prestige of the HuffPost, a big part of what enhanced its value is savvy keyword/SEO strategies–specifically, stealing headlines from other publications. It all comes down to googling and search results. The value of the HuffPost was predicated on the number of page views.
While many HuffPost visitors come to read political commentary and news, a big chunk come for the splashy headlines and articles, including a recent story, Chelsy Davy & Prince Harry: So Happy Together. According to The New York Times, this was not really a HuffPost article at all; rather, it was two sentences and a slide show of the happy couple. Eye candy: yes; news value: absolutely none, unless you’re a royals watcher.
Apparently Chelsy Davy was one of the top searches on Google that day, and the HuffPost quickly took advantage of a high-profile series of pictures and a sexy topic; their function was simply that of an amalgamator.
They quickly recognized opportunity, created a headline, a few sentences and a link to the Chelsy Davy article which actually lived on the People website. The result was that when someone googled Chelsy Davy, Google results included not just People, the original site, but the HuffPost, who really just stole a headline.
This is what obsessive SEO experts are doing to drive traffic to their websites. Does this raise some moral issues? I think so. Do I see this changing? Not at all. We live in a world where a whole generation of people are learning to communicate in 140-character sound bites.
We have launched wars against two countries in the Middle East who only want us to leave. We’ve spent more money in Afghanistan than we spend on our own homeland security. We’ve bombed the hell out of this country that is reduced to a pile of rubble, a country whose literacy rate is a whopping 10% and is the one of the most corrupt nations on earth. Why are we still in this cesspool when our own people are living in poverty and people are going hungry? Our infrastructure is shot and cities and states are bankrupt. Moral issues? Are they even relevant any more?