( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)[Instead of hijacking the other diary, I’ve put my thoughts here. The Huffpo/AOl merger has bugged me for some time, and watching the Patch gain traction and credibility in Massachusetts is frustrating.]
Last winter, Arianna Huffington, perhaps the most influential liberal blogger in the country, sold her blog to AOL for a handsome sum. Despite the sale of the Huffington Post, she retains control of the news content for the entire AOL network as editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group.
Why is this important? In addition to the increased exposure of Huffington Post content on a popular, nonpartisan platform, she also gains control over the entire AOL network including the Patch, a site linking to hundreds (soon to be thousands) of hyper-local community sites. The Patch is growing like a weed in Massachusetts communities. You can find the list here (click the Mass tab).
Conservative blogger Jeff Dunetz wrote an interesting piece on the merger. As a marketing director in the hyper-local media business, Dunetz understands the future of hyper-locals and explains:
It’s true that AOL will give Arianna Huffington’s progressive news organization a wider berth both nationally and worldwide. But be aware, the expanded progressive reach created by the Huffington sale is only a small part of the story. It is the small, the hyper-local that will eventually be known as the big part of the deal.
What drives this heightened interest is the fact that these sites contain editorial written by “next-door neighbors,” cover High School Football games Jr. played in, local weather, store-openings and other announcements. Local news affects people’s lives today. On a national basis people may be interested in what is going on in Egypt, but their lives are more directly effected by the announcement on their local Patch site that “garbage pick-up day” is moving from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Why is this important? As former speaker Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” Now consider the Patch network combined with AOL’s vast databases local attitudes, purchases etc. During national and state campaigns, Huffpo’s biased editorial can be written and distributed according to the specific issues concerning that specific area.
While conservative and liberal blogs provide a valuable service for their respective bases, they cater to captured audiences. Controlling sites like AOL and the Patch allows Arianna to spread her content, attitudes, and biases to whole new class of new and swing voters. It’s financially and politically advantageous for the Patch to appear innocuous with a focus on apolitical, local and non-partisan content.
In an interview with Bill Maher, linked below, Arianna explained that she expects only five percent of the content on her new sites to be political. This is not harmless; its dangerous. Using entertainment, sports, weather, calenders, etc… is a good way to mask intentions, gain trust and build an audience. Subtle bias in such forums is hardly noticed and more effective.
But her intentions are clear; she wants to influence the political debate in her new role. In her official announcement, she admitted as much:
Remember my New Year’s resolution? It’s coming true — and it’s only the beginning of February. Let’s go down the checklist: Local? AOL’s Patch.com covers 800 towns across America, providing an incredible infrastructure for citizen journalism in time for the 2012 election, and a focus on community and local solutions that have been an integral part of HuffPost’s DNA. Check.
In that interview with Maher mentioned above, Arianna further explains how she will use her new platform. Watch the whole clip, but pay particular attention at the 2:25 mark and the 4:25 mark. At the 2:25 mark, she explains how five percent of the content will be political, but refuses to label Huffpo content as left-wing. At the 4:25 mark, she explains how hyper-locals are the future and references Patch. Since I dont know how to convert embed codes for wordpress, you can find the clip — HERE.
I’ve perused Patch and have seen some warning signs already. I searched the background of local editors in some communities that I know intimately, and, as I suspected, the editors are sophisticated, liberal activists. For those in Greater Boston, do a google search of Kristi Ceccarossi, the self-described “class-warrior” and local Patch.com editor. You wont be suprised.
Maybe the Patch will provide value. I still read the Boston Globe, watch Jon Stewart and go to James Cameron movies, but I know what they represent and take it all in with a grain of salt. People shouldn’t be duped by the Patch or the grand schemes of its editor-in-chief. At the very least, I am committed to calling it the Huffington Patch. Call it truth in advertising.
Liberal activists have been playing this game for nearly a century, while conservatives were asleep at the switch. In Massachusetts, the Republican establishment has been especially oblivious to the fight outside of the political arena. Its hard to change Beacon Hill, when liberals control the old media. Now, they are increasing their control of the new media.