Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New becomes Old and vice versa

A couple interesting things happened in the world of the political press this week.

First, The Huffington Post, an independent online newspaper and blog site, was purchased by AOL for $315M. Founder Ariana Huffington called it a merger of visions. That remains to be seen. AOL is clearly hurting for eyeballs and HuffPo has quickly become one of the biggest news sources on the web. In this case a Web 1.0 giant absorbed a Web 2.0 wunderkind. Unfortunately,  HuffPo's independence was where it had value as a news source. Now its merged into the AOL-TimeWarner media conglomerate and that independence is going to be difficult to maintain. I don't blame Ariana for taking such a generous offer, but I am also disheartened to see one of the truly independent new media news sources lose its autonomy.

Second, Keith Olbermann, former MSNBC political pundit and raconteur extraordinaire,who built his post-ESPN reputation on taking President Bush to task, announced today he's joining CurrentTV. This is a bold move for Mr. Olbermann who left the NBC family to join a "high on the dial" cable TV network that specializes in user generated news reporting and mini-documentary pieces to fill their slate. I love the channel - it's perhaps the purest form yet of a democratized press on cable TV and their website is pretty slick too. Some might dismiss this as the best he could do, but I'm guessing they'd be wrong. CurrentTV is a preferred news source for younger, trendier "new media" savvy people and Olbermann's going to feed their political activism.

Why does all this matter? It's probably not an enormous shift, but just in the past few days we've seen a popular online new media site absorbed by an enormous old-school media company and now an old-school media veteran joins a hip new media alternative news source. I think we're seeing some pretty drastic changes in how news is absorbed and acquired and these are emblematic of those shifts.

Here's hoping HuffPo can maintain their autonomy despite new ownership and that Keith Olbermann can turn millions of people on to CurrentTV.

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