The very best telling of the AOL-HuffPo merger story is a clip from Taiwanese animation studio NMA.If you haven’t seen it, remedy yourself now.
The only problem with the clip is that it so rapid fire with quick cuts, inside jokes, and broad visual metaphors that it can be hard to catch everything that’s going on.
What these videos really need is a handy FAQ for newbies.
So that’s what we’ve made here.
ANSWER: Because AOL and HuffPo are Internet companies, duh.
BONUS: Look for the 'new carpets' joke.
RESEARCH: You can buy the 'The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging by Huffington Post' on eBay for about four bucks.
ANSWER: They are the embodiments of HuffPo 'rivals' Gawker, Hot Air, and Drudge Report.
Hot Air and Drudge Report are big aggregators, like HuffPo, while Gawker is an original content factory, which is what HuffPo would like everyone to believe it is. Truth is, the Sugar Inc. logo should probably be on the back of one of those shirts.
BONUS: Check out the hipster mullet on that Gawker guy. Go back to Brooklyn, Trevor!
ANSWER: In 'The Wizard Of Oz' it turns out that the almighty and powerful wizard everyone is afraid of is actually just a man behind a curtain, operating a big scary green-glowing robot avatar in front of the curtain.
Arianna and the Huffington Post, goes the implication, are all show and no go -- pulling in lots of traffic but earning little to no profit.
RESEARCH: It's fair to ask if there's a big business in HuffPo. Henry says AOL will have to fire 1 in 5 employees to make the new venture begin to work.
ANSWER: Turns out, Arianna Huffington's ex-husband, Michael Huffington, is a self-described bisexual.
The NMA video alleges that Arianna knew Michael was bisexual before marrying him, and that she married him for the power his name provided. Arianna denis all this, of course.
BONUS: Mr. Eyeful is on an oil rig because his family money comes from a natural gas business called HUFFCO. Also, men work shirtless on oil rigs, right?
RESEARCH: Back in 2003, Michael gave a brutal interview about Arianna.
ANSWER: Not only did Michael Huffington and Arianna break up back in the late nineties, she also went from being his Republican political ally to being a left-wing liberal foe.
In 2003, she ran for Governor of California as an Independent. The rumours were that Michael wanted to run as a Republican. He didn't.
BONUS: In an interview during this election, Michael said that his daughter's begged their mother not to run. 'Our oldest daughter has been devastated by it,' he said.
RESEARCH: Bloomberg News had the 2003 scoop on Arianna's run against eventual Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
ANSWER: The guy on the left is Tim Armstrong, of course.
But check out those handsome grey locks on the guy on the right. It's Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes in a cameo! They are splitting the sign because AOL spunout from Time Warner in 2009.
BONUS: One big reason Jeff Bewkes eventually became Time Warner CEO is that he was one of the few Time Warner execs opposed to merging with AOL in the first place.
RESEARCH: Here is an awesome photo of Bewkes:
ANSWER: AOL calls itself a media company. But really, 80% of the company's profits still come from AOL's subscription business.
That customer base is rapidly shrinking, though. It's down to 4 million from 35 million subscribers in 2002.
BONUS: One ex-AOL exec says the company's 'dirty little secret' is that 75% of those subscribers don't need AOL to get on the Internet. We'd get upset, but we haven't used our $125/month gym membership since August.
ANSWER: During the last three months of 2010, AOL revenues came in at $600 million. That sounds like a lot, but it's actually down 26% from the same three months in 2009.
BONUS: The tricky thing for AOL is that losing dial-up subscribers does more than deflate revenues for the subscription business. It also reduces the number of people who go to and see ads on AOL.com, AOL Mail, and AOL.com's Google-powered search engine. That's a lot of ad revenue down the drain.
ANSWER: Just around 30 months ago, AOL bought a social network called Bebo for $850 million -- in cash.
In the summer of 2010, AOL sold Bebo for less than $10 million. Before that final sale, Tim hinted that AOL might be better off just shutting Bebo down and writing the entire thing off for tax purposes.
BONUS: Mostly because of the embarrassment that was Bebo, then-new CEO of AOL Tim Armstrong promised in late 2009 that the company would no longer attempt 'hail Mary' passes to try and turn the thing around. He said, 'No more 'hail Marys' where we take cash from access and make big bets on things that we don't know about.'
Tim must not have liked New Yorker writer Ken Auletta's headline for a post on the HuffPo deal, then: 'Tim Armstrong's Hail Mary Pass.'
RESEARCH: AOL Just Blew Half Its Cash On HuffPo
ANSWER: AOL has more than a hundred branded media outlets. Very few of them -- about a dozen, if we're being generous -- get much traffic at all without big links from the AOL.com homepage. The AOL.com homepage is dependent on ISP subscribers. He's about to take a rope from Arianna floating by on a much bigger ship.
BONUS: Ironically, AOL's media business may be deeply flawed, but it's not because of the sites branded to the side of Tim's boat here. TechCrunch and Engadget have huge loyal audiences independent of AOL.com. (AOL owns both through acquisition, however.)
The Taiwanese animators missed a great opportunity to revisit the deliciously testy rivaly between Engadget boss Joshua Topulksy and TechCrunch's Michael Arrington.
RESEARCH: The Problem With AOL's Media Strategy
ANSWER: Boy does NBC wish it were 1997 again. Remember 'Friends' and 'Seinfeld'?
RESEARCH: In this story by NYPost gossip maven Claire Atkinson, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker blames his staff for NBC's failed resuscitation during his tenure. Charming!
ANSWER: In a leaked document outlining the company's strategy, Tim Armstrong demands that AOL editorial increase its stories per month from 33,000 to 55,000 and pageviews per story from 1,500 to 7,000.
BONUS: There's no mention of 'science or magic' in the 58-page PowerPoint presentation, but there is a slide dedicated 'the profitability consideration' AOL wants its editors to make each time they are about to write a story.
RESEARCH: 'The AOL Way'
ANSWER: That's Rupert Murdoch reading about AOL-HuffPo on his new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. Rupe has a sharkfin because, in a separate visual metaphor not explore in this video, he and the Wall Street Journal are like sharks circling a distressed New York Times.
BONUS: Look for the 'new carpets' joke.
RESEARCH: 'Wall Street Journal takes on New York Times,' by NMA.
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