Arianna Huffington is a brilliant businesswoman with an extraordinary sense of timing — first riding the feminist wave to write a best seller accusing Picasso of womanizing, then going conservative to marry a multi-millionaire Republican, and then switching to the liberal/progressive side and founding the most successful new media news and opinion site extant.
It’s also long been clear she is a political thinker with the depth and conviction of a nepticulid moth. Arianna is driven almost entirely by self-interest. Her lifestyle, if not her putative ideas, would make Ayn Rand proud. The principle motivation for her quixotic run for governor in California appeared to have been to be photographed next to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So what can we glean from the substantial sale of the Huffington Post, beside the obvious — that the HuffPo’s investors wanted to get their money out and that already economically shaky AOL seems to have overpaid? Well, there is more important news in this: To the consternation of the HuffPo faithful, the re-upped HuffPo on AOL is apparently going more centrist, concentrating on more popular fare (they’ve been going that way already) and abjuring the political. As Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post:
AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong said he thinks “Arianna has the same interest we do, which is serving consumers’ needs and going beyond the just straight political needs of people.” Huffington agreed, boasting that only 15 percent of her eponymous site’s traffic is for politics (that’s down from 50 percent a couple of years ago), and she emphasized that politics is just one of two dozen “sections,” including a new one devoted to covering divorces.
Arianna has read the tea leaves. Progressivism, which was riding the crest of popularity on the election of Obama, is over. It is no longer good for business. And just as the stock market is said to be a leading indicator on business cycles, I submit Arianna’s track record has shown her to be a leading indicator on the zeitgeist. She knows when to get out. Obama, and by extension progressivism, is fini. It is best left to fringey looneys like Code Pink. Put simply: progressivism is no longer good business.
Now this does not mean Arianna won’t tilt left publicly, at least somewhat. That’s what’s done in “polite society.” But in the real world of business, it’s over. Out with the health care crisis, in with divorce and Lindsay Lohan. Forget the puffery about “citizen journalism” coming to AOL. This is for show, to continue getting free content while suckering some of the old, disgruntled audience from the original HuffPo. This combination very well could succeed. Arianna will in essence be going to head-to-head with Murdoch’s The Daily on the iPad.
As Richard Grenell of Capitol Media Partners told Pajamas Media: “Don’t give up your AOL account yet. Arianna will turn the Huffington Post into a combination of The Daily Beast and TMZ.”