Despite a story in today’s New York Times headlined: “Huffington Gains More Control in AOL Revamping,” Arianna Huffington has in recent weeks seen a “narrowing” of her job at AOL, a source close to AOL tells us.
When AOL bought the Huffington Post a year ago, it combined all of its editorial properties into one division – the AOL Huffington Post Media Group – and made Huffington president of the division.
That meant she had editorial and business control over the Huffington Post as well as other popular AOL media brands, including Engadget, Autoblog, Styleist, and TechCrunch.
The vision was for AOL to become the Huffington Post and the Huffington Post to become AOL – with Huffington the company’s media visionary.
Today, after a recent re-org at the top, Huffington’s job is much different. In important ways, it is much smaller.
For example, Huffington no longer has oversight over TechCrunch, Engadget, Moviephone, Stylist, AOL Video, or, most importantly, AOL.com. Combined, those sites – recently removed from Huffington’s portfolio – account for audience more than 50 million people strong.
Jay Kirsch is now the business leader owning and operating those brands.
So why would the New York Times headline Brian Stelter’s story “Huffington Gains More Control in AOL Revamping”?
Why would its fourth paragraph begin: “The changes appear to give Ms. Huffington more authority within the closely watched media company, where her title is president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group”?
A source close to AOL has a theory: Stelter is a TV writer who is also writing a book about the Today Show, NBC’s morning show. AOL just hired the chief PR person for NBC News, Lauren Kapp, to run marketing and press relations for The Huffington Post.
Our source’s theory is that Kapp placed Stelter’s story to kill two birds with one stone: to promote her own hiring, and to promote (and impress) her new boss by getting ahead of the demotion story you are reading here.
“Brian and Lauren are close. She wanted him to break the story. This is not a major change, but got played to be a major change for two people’s egos.”
We’ve reached out to Huffington and, via Huffington, Kapp, but have not heard back from either.
Hearing this theory of how today’s Times story came to exist, a source close to Huffington could not resist taking a few shots at AOL.
“[Huffington] is really happy with what’s going on,” says this source. “She’s feeling more liberated, being able to exert her leadership across a wider array of stuff.”
“The truth is that AOL is slow and plodding and sclerotic. Arianna is trying to break free from that.”
“[AOL] is completely the opposite of Huff Post. Their marketing side, HR side, and events side – it’s not the Huff Post level. It’s stereotypically corporate America. The quality of their execution is always sort of lacking.”
The source close to AOL executives tells us that leadership at the top doesn’t mind stories like the one placed in the New York Times today.
“You can see why [Huffington and Kapp] had to pitch it this way. What we care about is that the brands are healthy.”
AOL declined to comment on this story.
Are we witnessing a power struggle between two of AOL’s most important figures?
Here’s a related story from February: FRICTION AT AOL: Arianna Is A Huge ‘Headache’… But Also The Most Valuable Person At AOL
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