Micro-local meets HuffPost meets the World

Two big things happened in the last 24 hours: Google exec and internet activist Wael Ghonim tweeted that he’d been released from an Egyptian jail and Arianna Huffington announced a merger with AOL.

Google has created a spreadsheet to track missing journalists and Facebook pages were set up to try to find Ghonim. Google’s tweet signaled an international exhale: “Huge relief–Wael Ghonim has been released. Our love to him and his family.”

A few hours earlier, 12:01 a.m. to be exact, Huffington posted on her blog plans to sell HuffPost to AOL and explained lots of big ideas for the future. Dan Sabbagh of the Guardian noted that AOL may be trying to play ball with the proverbial big news boys and girls and get away from an internet dial-up revenue stream, all for a $315 million price tag. Despite a healthy dose of skepticism, I am more optimistic about the growth potential for HuffPost under AOL than I am for Murdoch’s The Daily. The reason simple: The Huffpost/AOL partnership is built on the values of interactivity and access.

Interactivity was a life-saver for Ghonim. He was released because of international support that was cast on a local level inside Egypt and simultaneously around the world. Ghonim told his story and the story of others, we passed it along on Facebook and Twitter, and then he thanked us back. We all rejoice.

Those same values give AOL the potential to take the HuffPost model to the back roads of everywhere with Patch.com and even to places without internet access through mobile up links. HuffPost is trying to reach distinct targets, including ethnic minority markets and even divorcees, and offers AOL significant gifts. We’ll see where this goes but taking micro-local to Huffpost to the world may also take solid ethical values to the bank.

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