Verizon is sounding out potential buyers for the HuffPost website, in the latest phase of the US telecoms group’s retreat from the digital media business.
In recent weeks Verizon has raised a HuffPost sale with potential acquirers, according to two people familiar with the discussions. No formal sale process has been launched and talks remain at an early stage.
A spokesperson for Verizon said: “We don’t comment on rumours and speculation.”
The attempt to sell the progressive news site is a sign of how Verizon is continuing to slim down the family of dotcom businesses it amassed with the costly acquisition of Yahoo and AOL, assets it wrote down by almost $5bn earlier this year. Last month Verizon sold Tumblr for a reported “nominal” amount, after buying the social network for $1.1bn in 2013.
Verizon formed its media division from the merger of AOL, which Verizon bought for $4.4bn in 2015, and Yahoo, which it paid $4.5bn in 2017. At the time Tim Armstrong, the former AOL chief executive who pioneered the digital strategy, said the tie-up would create “the best company for consumer media”.
Since the time of the deal, digital media groups once hailed as the future of the news business have struggled to meet the sky-high expectations for the sector, especially as online advertising revenues have been swallowed up by Google and Facebook.
Some companies such as Rookie have closed while newsrooms at HuffPost, BuzzFeed, Vice and Vox have faced job cuts. Consolidation has swept the sector as financially-strapped digital media groups seek scale. In just the past month Vice Media acquired Refinery29, the women-focused millennial website, while Group Nine bought PopSugar and Vox acquired New York Media, owner of the namesake magazine.
The Huffington Post, a liberal news site founded in 2005 by a group of publishers including Arianna Huffington, was bought by AOL for $315m in 2011. It operates across more than a dozen countries through licensing agreements.
In January Verizon announced that it would reduce the staff numbers at its digital media division by around 7 per cent, cutting about 800 jobs, including some at HuffPost. The news website also closed its German arm, HuffPost Deutschland, in March.