HuffPost Intrigue: Balis Out, Arianna Next?


ADOTAS — A week ago today, we ran a Q&A I did with Janet Balis (pictured), publisher of the Huffington Post. The story came about when an in-house publicist pitched it to me in November. Balis was set to speak at ad:tech New York, but our respective schedules didn’t allow for a meeting there.

The idea was then revisited in February, initiated by the same publicist, after AOL announced its first earnings gain in 8 years. “HuffPost was a big talking point for today’s call,” the publicist wrote in an email. “…[Balis is] responsible for all of the new advertiser deals on HuffPost.”

The interview took place via phone shortly after that. And then … let’s just say I put it on the back burner. No big deal, I thought; there’s nothing especially timely about it, and it’s an arrow I can pull from my quiver when I need it.

On April 22, our interview with Balis went live. We touted it frequently on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It drew steady readership throughout the week, and repeatedly emerged as the most read article on Adotas according to our real-time analytics.

Then, on April 26, All Things D reported that Balis would be leaving her post at HuffPost on May 3. Someone on the inside apparently had leaked a memo to the online publication written by HuffPost Chairwoman, President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington that read, in part:

“As HuffPost was being structured to become a stand-alone entity within AOL, and we brought in Jimmy Maymann as our CEO, it became increasingly clear that there were overlapping functions between his role and Janet Balis’ as Publisher.”

But wait, it gets even stranger: A story was published today on AdAge titled, “Has Huffington Helped AOL Become Content Juggernaut – Or Other Way Around?” Neither Balis’ role in the success of HuffPost nor her impending departure are mentioned. Rather, Huffington is cited repeatedly in the article, and, dare I say, not in the most flattering light. The writer posits that HuffPost has perhaps taken too much credit for AOL’s resurgence. And should the parent company’s Q1 earnings report offer favorable news, HuffPost would likely try to take credit again.

As they often say, timing is everything, and there’s no such thing as coincidence. This is a plotline straight out of an HBO original docudrama, and given what’s transpired, you can’t help but wonder whether the next Jimmy Choo to drop will be Arianna’s.



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