Way back in 2005 Arianna Huffington set up a small left wing blog on a ‘shoestring’ budget while AOL was part of the world’s fourth largest corporation, AOL Time Warner. Arianna’s blog quickly became on online sensation with a high ranking and growing unique visitors. While things were riding high for Arianna and her team at the Huffington Post, things weren’t so rosy for AOL. Its merger with Time Warner, which still sets records as the world’s biggest business merger, started to crumble and finally dissolved in 2009. Now the two online giants have announced they are joining forces in a whopping $315 million deal, creating a new media force to be reckoned with – ‘The Huffington Post Media Group’.

All of the sites AOL currently owns will fall under the newly created media group and will be headed up by Arianna Huffington herself, including Engadget, TechCrunch and PopEater. According to Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO of AOL “the acquisition of The Huffington Post will create a next-generation American media company with global reach that combines content, community, and social experiences for consumers.”

AOL’s reputation isn’t great right now. Following the failed Time Warner merger, AOL appears to be grabbing at every opportunity and piggybacking off something successful and unique to boost its own reputation and business. But, the merger could also be looked at as a good strategic move by teaming with a blog with firm political and editorial values. This could give AOL an identity – something it seems to have lost along the way.

So what does all this mean?  Is this the start of a new media contender, happy to take on the larger,  more traditional media conglomerates? Or will the merger suffer the same fate as AOL’s previous high profile business partnership? With the shrewd Arianna at the helm, this blogger is leaning towards the former. One thing is for certain, the deal has got us all talking and perhaps Mr Murdoch looking nervously over his shoulder. AOL is a trending topic on Twitter at the time of writing and opinion is split.

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