HuffPo is not for sale, except maybe at the right price

Within months of AOL acquiring Arianna Huffington’s blog and news network in 2011, reports surfaced claiming it could quickly off-load the property.

Speaking to me at Monaco Media Forum, AOL Huffington Post Media Group international SVP Jimmy Maymann said:

“I can say for sure AOL is not shopping Huffington Post. But there has been a lot of interest.”

“It’s not on the cards. AOL is the owner. But I cannot stand here and say, some day, ‘AOL will not sell it if the price is high enough or there is a better owner’. But, right now, AOL is a good owner for Huffington Post and we’ll keep it.”

Maymann said investors had come forward.

Putting things right

Controversy and in-fighting dogged the post-acquisition integration, even as AOL effectively charged HuffPo with running and reinventing all AOL content itself.

“It came down to a few comments Arianna made around the integration,” Maymann told me. “No-one went out and said ‘that’s not the case’.

“One of of the things we potentially didn’t get right at Huffington Post was that it was totally integrated in to AOL, with the same tech team, HR and finance.

“Now we’ve taken a step back — Huffington Post, within AOL, is a standalone business. Only with that way can you unlock the full potential of it and have people feel that it is still Huffington Post DNA and culture.”

Going global

HuffPo has rolled out to post of its five non-U.S. markets by leaning on partnerships with legacy newspaper publishers.

“There are at least 10 more markets that we need to cover off,” Maymann told me. “We are giving a two-year period to break even and (launching) where we believe we can be in the top three or five in the news category in a given market.”

Although HuffPo launched in to the UK’s fiercely competitive news market minus a newspaper partner, Maymann revealed: “There has been interest from some of the players in the UK market to do a partnership after the fact.”

He told an earlier Monaco Media Forum panel: “Asia is the next tier of markets on the list. We expect to announce a partnership in Japan in the next couple of weeks. We expect to launch our first (Asian) editions beginnings of next year.

“We are negotiating in South Korea and in India. China is very interesting but also a very difficult market to do anything in unless you want to be regulated by the government, which is not the DNA of Huffington Post.”

TechCrunch is here to stay

Despite rumours, Maymann also committed AOL will retain the technology news site.

TechCrunch is a very interesting property that we have high ambitions for. We are going to see some very international growth plans for TechCrunch and it will stay in the AOL family.

“There were some hiccups and bumps on the road. But no-one is bigger than the brand and the brand is still thriving.”

Election numbers

Maymann said Huffington Post clocked 10 million unique visitors on U.S. Presidential election day. On the new HuffPo Live video initiative:

“It’s still early days. we’re still two weeks in. We’ve seen some very good early numbers.

“We will support it even more next year. We need to see the model works commercially in the U.S. before rolling it out elsewhere, but it is the plan to take it elsewhere too.”

“Across HuffPo Live, we had more than a million people taking part (on election day).”