Aol Buys Huffington Post – Is A Sell-Side Platform Next?

Aol Buys Huff PoAs Aol announced yesterday its intention to buy Huffington Post, the sell-side platform world was all ears. Here comes Aol CEO Tim Armstrong crafting a content generation strategy that goes beyond the content farm, but includes real brands that leverage the community. The community is critical since it helps generate content for the brands.

No time like the present for some ruminations on the ad tech front.

With technology lurking in the background, it would seem that the ad network tech will be further leveraged here. But, what may make more sense is to either own or partner with a supercharged sell-side platform. Is an exit near from AdMeld, PubMatic, Rubicon Project or any of the other companies in the sell-side platform space?

At first glance, the funding that some of these players have taken might make the price appear to be a too high for Aol after spending $300 million on Huff Po. But, given Armstrong’s clear content strategy, the answer should be “no” and $100-200 million on a sell-side platform (SSP) isn’t too much to ask. The SSP seems like a critical piece.

AdMeld and Pubmatic have swapped Huff Po (AdMeld, PubMatic) as a client over the past couple of years. I’m not sure it matters who has Huff Po today though it can’t hurt that PubMatic has Huffington Post’s CRO Greg Coleman on their Advisory Board.

quick aside…How about Greg Coleman? He’s back in the Aol mothership after getting let go at Yahoo! during one of the purges at Y! (golden parachute #1) in 2007; a short stop at NetSeer; he exited shortly after Tim Armstrong took over at Aol (golden parachute #2); and today, Coleman is back at Aol pending the close of the HuffPo acquisition by April (golden parachute/trove #3). Congrats! …/end quick aside

Ultimately, in spite of any Huff Po relationships today, what matters is who has the Aol content network tomorrow. A quick look – and by no means is this scientific – at Huffington Post shows ad tags from DoubleClick, OpenX and Right Media Exchange.

Ahhh, Right Media Exchange.

Let the Yahoo!/Aol rumors begin anew. Kinda. How about a blockbuster deal where Right Media Exchange is either spun out as an independent entity or sold to Aol? Given the importance of monetizing all that non-guaranteed traffic on Huffington Post and the growing Aol content network, as well as the need to efficiently manage the guaranteed/non-guaranteed using sell-side tech, the question becomes whether or not RMX has the latest and greatest sell-side platform technology and at what cost. A good deal for Aol could be a commitment by Yahoo! to offer part of its inventory through RMX. The extra liquidity of high performing, non-guaranteed inventory might help seal a deal.

Or, how about AppNexus?

Microsoft would undoubtedly have to approve the deal and considering Aol’s positioning as a significant content play going forward, it might make sense. Or how about Microsoft taking an equity position in Aol with some extra cash? Big ad tech players will want to get deeply entrenched with big online media players.

The M&ampA party is starting to crank!

By John Ebbert

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  1. Always super fun to speculate on M&A. But no mention of AOL’s existing technology position with AdTech?

  2. I would think they easiest and cheapest way AOL could get into RTB would be to buy AdBrite? decent footprint, decent technology, and probably much cheaper than the SSP

  3. AOL owns and would think Huffpo inventory would go directly there like all of AOL’s other O&O properties.