If you’re not regular Huffington Post reader, you might not notice the changes in the masthead design evident below. The AOL-HuffPost merger became official official this week (they’re, like, totally listed as “married” on Facebook), and the changes are rolling out.
A few days ago, Andrew Breitbart ran a piece on Huffington about the the liberal bias of NPR and the MSM (that’s mainstream media, in case your blogging IQ remains fixed in the pre-Swift Boat-era) with regards to the Tea Party. I’ve said all along that HuffPo has been positioning itself as a “beyond left and right” general interest portal/magazine for some time now, and that the AOL purchase wouldn’t mean the watering down of some hard-left new media beacon. But even I didn’t expect to see a piece like Brietbart’s just yet. Eventually, yes. Just not yet. But the more I think about it, the more sense it seems to make to make these changes sooner rather than later.
Speaking of changes, the first thing regular Huff readers will notice is the change in font, style, and organization of the section (vertical) links in the banners of the home page and each vertical. The entire presentation is streamlined, and some verticals have been bumped off the main masthead’s real-estate and issued a spot on drop-down menus. (Religion, for example, is now a drop-down under “Living.”) You’ll also note that some of the drop-down items link directly to other AOL properties. While I understand the need for integration, this aspect does feel rather patchworked (no pun intended). As a placeholder for some sort of unified branding across platforms and sites, I suppose it’s fine. It achieves goal #1 for AOL in this stage of the merger: show Huffington readers links to AOL’s other content sources. But loading TechCrunch via a drop-down link from the HuffPost Tech box is clunky, and the style disparities between sites could be jarring for people expecting to stay on huffingtonpost.com.
Don't act like you don't also like to sometimes maybe play mp3s of modem sounds and pretend its 1995. Just don't.
I’m sure, in time, AOL and the newly-formed Huffington Post Media Group therein will iron these things out. But for right now, this first phase of integration feels less like an upgrade of the “The Internet Newspaper” and more like its portalization. I don’t mean to be down on you, AOL-Huff (that is, I sure do want you to hire me for full-time winning analysis), and I want you to know that I’ve been pulling for you, AOL, ever since the mid-90s when all my techie friends were total ISP snobs. Where are their precious BBSes now, old friend? Exactly.