LOS ANGELES (CBS) While many were ranting and raving about commercials or winning and losing teams post-Super Bowl on Sunday, the biggest headline of the night was that AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million - that's $300 million in cash and $15 million in stock.The deal will also make Queen Bee Arianna Huffington the president and editor-in-chief of the newly minted The Huffington Post Media Group, overseeing AOL properties MapQuest, AOL Music, AutoBlog, Patch, Engadget and TechCrunch.
Huffington and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong were notified that the deal finally went through during Super Bowl halftime. From there it was off to the races.
I caught up with the duo at Signal LA, The Content Marketing Conversation in Los Angeles, where we spoke about the merger, what it means for both companies, the future of video and keeping news social:
"This whole deal is about acceleration," Huffington told me.
Armstrong added that "another big change with this deal, which is really powerful, is the connection between national, global and local... You can imagine how that applies to the local space with what we've been doing with Patch. Arianna's community-driven social news element applied to local communities will be a very powerful combination and the first scalable combination in this space.
"The first [priority] is to basically take what Arianna has built - which is this social community engagement for content - and apply it across all of our properties. The second is to put more engaging brand advertising against it so we can fund more content development. First and foremost, it's also about culture. Arianna and I agree that these deals come down to culture and the two of us see eye to eye on that."
Through its culture and community, The Huffington Post has definitely been at the forefront of making news more social, accumulating more than 30 million unique U.S. visitors monthly since its launch in May 2005. The next big step for the new team seems to be taking over the video space:
"Our video investments have been around creation, distribution and advertising," said Armstrong. "Our video, we had around $200 million in investments in that space. Our infrastructure is scaled. We went from number 11 to number four in terms of video distribution on the web in Q4. If you can imagine The Huffington Post's success applied to video across our distribution network, it could be very powerful."
So as the face of new media on TV news, what does Arianna think about the possibility of disrupting that cycle too?
"Increasingly these distinctions are going to seem very archaic. Increasingly good content is going to be accessible on multiple screens. That's the future... The news has become social. People don't just want to consume it, they want to share it, they want to like it or not like it, discuss it. Will.i.am said it best. I was on a panel with him at the Democratic convention and he said, 'People used to consume news sitting on the couch, and now they consume news galloping on the horse'... It's a much more dynamic process. That's something that has been a huge priority at The Huffington Post and something we hope to keep on iterating."
According to Armstrong, the merger now makes them into the "next generation media company" with 117 million unique visitors per month in the U.S. and 270 million worldwide. I do applaud both teams on their innovation and leadership. I also must admit that I look up to and am inspired by Arianna Huffington as a woman, leader and entrepreneur who has completely reinvented the game.
But the question many still have is whether this is the future of the modern news company or the desperate final act of an aging tech behemoth? Time will tell if this is a match made in heaven or yet another dysfunctional arranged marriage. What do you think? Leave your thoughts on this mega merger in the comments below.Disclosure: I am a contributor and blogger for The Huffington Post.