Everything in the media world on Monday seemed to revolve around AOL’s decision to purchase The Huffington Post for $315 million. Even Social Media Week, which kicked off on Monday, was co-opted to some degree. Of course, it didn’t hurt that HuffPo co-founder Jonah Peretti happened to be on one of the day’s panels.
The panel—moderated by Ian Schafer, founder and CEO of Deep Focus, and also including NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, Danielle Sacks of Fast Company magazine and PepsiCo brand manager Jamal Henderson—was on “Participation, Aggregation and Criticism in the Digital Age,” but Schafer couldn’t resist opening with the most significant news of the day.
Peretti said that Huffington had gone to AOL earlier in the day and that Tim Armstrong had visited the Huffington Post offices, where he said that the acquisition “feels more like a merger.”
“AOL is buying an amazing brand that has a lot of influential reporters, they’re buying Arianna Huffington and her vision, and they’re buying a tech platform that has proven to be one of the best platforms for news,” Peretti said.
Asked whether or not that merger would be a success, few panelists wanted to speculate, though Rosen did say the thought of Arianna Huffington and Tim Armstrong working together was “amusing to contemplate.”
The panel also discussed the formal topics on the bill, and took some time to express frustration with Malcolm Gladwell’s recent comments on social media’s effect in Egypt. “He’s more of a pop science writer who tells good stories,” Peretti said, criticizing Gladwell’s hindsight mentality. “We’ve all read The Tipping Point. Has anyone read The Tipping Point and been able to make something tip?”
“I think The New Yorker has debased its own standards by allowing him to write about this without real knowledge,” Rosen said.
Sacks and Henderson offered their own frustrations regarding this year’s Super Bowl commercials. “The Super Bowl advertising was so bad,” Sacks said. Henderson concurred: “Epic fail.”