AOL executives tried to push aside site founder to site emeritus role; report claims the publication broke even with $146 million revenue in 2014
Arianna Huffington rules an “improvable, insatiable content machine” that is ruled by a lighting-fast pace, high employee turnover and Huffington herself, who recently had a close brush with a demotion.
In an extensive New York Times piece on its history, everything from the site’s finances to Huffington’s shaky hold on leadership came to light.
Here are the 5 most shocking takeaways:
1. Arianna the “Popemobile”?
AOL executives tried to demote Huffington to a more ceremonial role in 2012.
“By October 2012, discontent with Huffington was widespread enough that top executives at AOL were quietly strategizing about ways to ease her into a kind of ceremonial role — one in which she would only promote the site rather than running its day-to-day operations,” the Times’ David Segal reported, quoting a source who referred to Huffington’s proposed new role as the “Popemobile.”
“Like the Pope in his bulletproof bubble, Huffington would glide through the world and wave.”
Knowing Huffington would have none of it, the proposal went nowhere.
2. Huffington Post is just breaking even
Another shocker revolves round HuffPo’s coffers–the site made $146 million in revenue in 2014, according to the Times, just breaking even, which makes the fact that previous media suitors were bidding a reported $1 billion to acquire it all the more impressive.
3. Arianna’s Army
Most high-powered media moguls have a few assistants–Arianna has an “A Team” of nine or so staffers who are the symbol for the dreaded “and other tasks as needed” on job description.
These staffers fly with Huffington around the world, tasked with tending to her social media accounts, running her errands and prepping her speeches (on top of their editorial responsibilities).
What an honor.
4. Turnover Machine
Huffington’s media machine has burnt out many young, eager journalists.
“One former staff member I spoke with, who developed an ulcer while working there, called The Huffington Post ”a jury-rigged, discombobulated chaos machine,” the Times’ reported.
One insider told TheWrap that working at Huffington Post under Arianna is like “having a girlfriend who instead of wanting to relax over a Netflix marathon, yanks you out for a run.”
A telling excerpt from the Times piece shows high turnover is not lost on Huffington:
A former editor told me about a period in 2013 when a series of departures left a cluster of empty desks along a wall that Huffington walks past on the way to her office. ”Someone told my manager, ‘Arianna is really stressed out about the number of people leaving, so we need a bunch of people to sit at those desks in the path from the elevator to her office, to make her feel better,’ ” the former editor said. ”So we sat there, waiting to say: ‘Hello! Greetings!’ as she walked by. It was supposed to be for two hours, but she got there at about 3 in the afternoon instead of 11 in the morning. It was absurd.
5. Arianna’s Paranoia
The media’s Greek goddess is on a never-ending hunt for staffer disloyalty, according to former employees.
“Employees cycle in and out of her favor, hailed as the site’s savior one moment, ignored the next,” the Times wrote. Huffington countered that HuffPo’s is a great place to work, equipped with nap rooms and breathing classes.
”I’m definitely a work in progress,” Huffington said. ”I’m not by any means saying I’m perfect. But I feel very good about our culture here, because a lot of our top leaders have embraced it.”
Read the complete story here.