Today’s announcement that the Huffington Post has been sold to AOL represents more than just another startup-makes-good story.
Sure, its founders, including my former boss Ken Lerer, are walking away with $315 million, which is certainly a nice payday for a 6-year-old investment. But more importantly, it ushers in an era in which we’ll begin to see an entirely new set of leaders in the news media world.
Some of the old guard may certainly survive to remain leaders in this new era, brands like The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Time and NPR. If they do, though, it seems to me they’ll need to evolve well beyond offering up existing content on the web and on mobile devices. The Huffington Post, with its mix of aggregated news content and well-known bloggers, brings a new twist to news media that clearly has found an audience.
Actually, it’s surprising to me that none of the traditional leaders in news have followed the Huffington Post’s lead and adopted a model that includes more bloggers from outside their journalist ranks. Maybe the deal announced today will push them in that direction. Maybe not.
The important point to my mind is the news media ecosystem is starting to demonstrate who the fittest are, and this gives us a clue about where the rest need to go. New, we can watch with interest to see if they get there.