I was wrong. Twice. Tim Armstrong is a genius, and AOL buying the Huffington Post doesn’t represent the disassembly of journalism in favor of pure search engine optimization.

Just Kidding. I’ll stick with my statement that Tim Armstrong has redeemed himself by buying the Huffington Post, but I’ll also stick with my previous assessment of Tim Armstrong and The AOL Way. And as for the “journalism is dead, welcome to Search Engine Optimization” angle? We’ll stick with that one, too.

I promise to stop writing about Tim Armstrong, Content Farms, and Search Engine Optimization after this piece, by the way. *

Yesterday, Jason Linkins, an employee at Huffington Post, stepped forward with this blog post, written as an explanation of the journalistic integrity and worth-taking-seriously status of the Huffington Post. As Linkins points out, he writes at Huffington Post, and is paid to do so. He’s hoping you’ll see that statement as logic to refute what I and many others have said this week: everything at Huffington Post is written by people who aren’t paid.

So let me be clear: Huffington Post does have paid employees, and they write stuff. Presumably, they also have editors to clean up and Huffington Post-ize the words those writers churn out.

But Linkins goes on to acknowledge that a large amount of the content at Huffington Post is blog-like in nature. It’s editorial, not news. It’s written by people with an agenda other than keeping you informed of fact so that you can make your own decisions. And the famous bloggers whose content makes up such a large part of Huffington Post’s content tend to be people with their own followings.

Meaning that the stuff at Huffington Post that attracts traffic and therefore “makes” Huffington Post isn’t written by Huffington Post employees and isn’t edited or vetted in any way other than to make sure it’s traffic-worthy. I’d wager that nobody cares what Jason Linkins has to say. But Al Gore, or Bill Maher? Now you’re talking!

I’ll repeat the big point: AOL bought Huffington Post and made Arianna Huffington its content head not because HuffPo’s content is great or Ms. Huffington is any sort of content visionary. Huffington Post is simply a way to generate huge traffic on an order of magnitude that will make The AOL Way a possibility.

This is a business change that’s all about SEO / Search Engine Optimization, and nothing at all about journalism. Take a cue from Tim Armstrong, and get serious about your SEO. And contact me directly if you want to talk Search Engine Optimization and how it can help your business.

* Who Are We Kidding? Tim Armstrong’s “Search Engine Optimization on Content Farms as a replacement for journalism” idea is big. It will be back.
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