News came today that mobile service giant Verizon will be buying one-time online giant AOL for $4.4 billion. Apparently, the company’s interested in AOL as part of shoring up its mobile and video advertising services.
What’s less specific is what’ll happen to the various online sites that AOL owns, most prominently the Huffington Post. There’s talk of spinning off the Post even after the buyout, but no clear news on that front so far. The Post is valued at $1 billion, according to USA Today.
If the Huffington Post, Engadget, and TechCrunch stay under Verizon, I wonder if those sites will still have their usual freedom to report on topics like net neutrality, which Verizon’s strongly against. Verizon’s the reason for the recent FCC’s second try at stronger net neutrality rules, after the mobile phone giant led an industry lawsuit managed to overturn the previous ones. Business Insider writes that Verizon had a short-lived blog last year, where it banned its writers from writing about net neutrality or government surveillance, two topics in which Verizon has heavy involvement.
On a lighter note, the usual AOL dial-up jokes and references are flying about online including, admittedly, my choice of the featured image for this post. The news is also evoking memories of the ill-conceived and ill-fated AOL-Time Warner merger lo these many years ago. Presumably, this merger won’t go as badly, given AOL’s business model’s changed since then, though it still makes money from its dwindling number of dial-up customers—two million as of this writing, and a still-profitable part of AOL’s business.
Flickr Creative Commons image by ryan (CC BY)