AOL’s Arianna Huffington does not seem fazed by the barrage of skeptical media that’s been nipping at her heels in the last week.
“Our traffic is not down despite the fact that we’ve had preexisting deals that have ended,” Huffington told TheWrap this week.
Speaking after announcing the hire of Vanity Fair’s Mike Hogan to run AOL’s entertainment properties, the media group president of AOL Huffington Post said that traffic was not down –despite an ill-tempered memo by an anonymous writer last week that said it was.
According to Comscore, the combined traffic of AOL and Huffington Post has been down since March, from 118,194,000 to 114,000,000 or so in April and May.
Still, May 2011 is up 2.3 percent over May 2010, according to a spokesman.
And Huffington Post on its own has now surpassed the New York Times in monthly traffic, surging to 35 million monthly uniques.
But the sites’ combined traffic has suffered from a couple of deals that traded traffic for cash, she said. A deal with the sports site Fanhouse, which shared 21 million uniques per month, has been replaced by a revenue deal with Sporting News.
In April, AOL Healthy Living was replaced by Everyday Health, another cash deal that sent 14 million monthly uniques elsewhere.
“Despite all that ,” said Huffington, “all the metrics of traffic and engagement are doing really well.”
An unnamed insider wrote a scathing memo last week, published on Business Insider, counting all the reasons why the merger would not work. He wrote this about traffic:
"Traffic is down. The integration is likely destroying the huffington post. The sales demands and content over-reach are destroying huffpost’s focus while the org is trapped trying to save AOL when the huffpost team should be focused on building huffpost. Traffic on huffpost is up – but only due to the redirects from aol sites…. Net net, aol plus huff post traffic is in decline and the situation is not improving."
Huffington will not be deflected by anonymous memos, however close for comfort.
She this week hired Michael Hogan, executive digital editor of Vanity Fair, to be executive features editor of AOL Huffington Post Media Group and editor-in-chief of Moviefone and AOL TV.
She has plans to expand in the entertainment sector. “We are going to be doing a lot more editorial content around movies, both reporting and bringing in the blogging platform,” she said.
Adding the blogging platform to Patch, AOL’s local news network, sending stories to the home page, “it almost doubled traffic.”
“That plus engagement, the commenting platform which is state of the art in terms of combining technology and human moderation, we’ll be able to increase engagement," she said.
Hogan has a job ahead of him. Moviefone has been described by some as a place “where creativity goes to die.”
Huffington plans to change that. “We want to make it more addictive, make sure our users get great use, but also spend time learning more about movies, sharing views about movies. “
Stay tuned, this hardly seems like the end of the story.