26798435 - atlanta, ga, usa, march 5, 2014 - the huffington post media group president arianna huffington makes speech at microsoft convergence conference in georgia congress center on march 5, 2014 in atlanta, gaArianna Huffington, who co-founded the Huffington Post 11 years ago and built it into one of the largest digital media outlets in the U.S., will be leaving the company in the coming weeks to focus on a (as yet unnamed) startup dedicated to health and wellness.

She first came on the scene as a conservative political commentator.  Her husband, Michael Huffington, a billionaire ran for the U.S. Senate in California in 1994 and lost in a close race to Dianne Feinstein.  The Huffingtons divorced and Ariana’s views took more of a liberal slant. Along with being a savvy commentator, she understood the power of the internet more than most.  Arianna Huffington co-founded the Huffington Post along with Kenneth Lerer and Jonah Peretti in 2005.  This was well before social media had such a stronghold on contemporary culture and well before anyone was giving any credence to online news outlets.  

The site was one of the pioneers of online journalism.  Before it came upon the scene, it was difficult to get people to take digital journalism seriously.  Its success not only helped to legitimize online journalism, it also served as a template for other publications.  

The numbers reflect that we are not talking about an inconsequential property here, it was acquired by AOL Inc. in 2011 for $315 million, and AOL was then bought by Verizon Communications Inc.  for $4.4 billion.   After the acquisitions, Ms. Huffington served as president and editor in chief of Huffington Post Media Group, which also included Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone and MapQuest.  She was set to stay on as editor in chief through 2019, but when the funding came through for her new venture, she thought it best to put her focus there and announced she was moving on.

In the news and opinion arena along with the Huffington Post there are now a number of influential online publications including The Daily Beast, Salon, Slate, Media Matters and BuzzFeed, which was founded by Huffington Post cofounder and Jonah Peretti.

But there are also influential mainstream and pop culture publications, as well as online versions of legacy media such as the Economist, the New York Times, etc.  The bottom line is that the digital media outlets have more than come of age.

From a PR perspective, there needs to be a learning curve here when communicating with clients who still feel that it’s only legitimate media when they can hold a print copy in their hand.  The media universe has grown considerably now and digital publications such as the Huffington Post have helped to usher in new and influential media platforms.  Effective PR and media relations campaigns will reflect that change.

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