AOL and The Huffington Post

02/08/2011 06:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Greg Shove of Halogen casts the deal between AOL and The Huffington Post in proper light in Paid Content where he is quoted saying, "AOL has just placed a big bet on the authentic web at scale."

Greg makes an interesting use of two important terms describing The Huffington Post: "authentic web" and "scale."

Elaborating, Paid Content's David Kaplan follows up in the next paragraph by writing:

"In basic terms, this is the combination of a large collection of news sites. Online is always about scale, first and foremost."

It's not clear that Greg Shove agrees with the second point, because he finishes his earlier thought about authentic web and scale reportedly saying:

"[AOL's] challenge now is to create products and programs that translate the huge impressions they've acquired into real influence for brands. If they make this just a volume play for advertisers, they lose."

I take that to mean that the "real influence for brands" will result from aligning brand messages with the appropriate "collection of news sites", as Kaplan described it -- in other words, not the scale, but the relevancy within The Huffington Post community; the granularity, which can probably then be stitched to numerous other AOL content initiatives in order to reach scale.

Scale, you see -- or volume -- is not what online is always about. It is not. TV has a better claim to scale although even TV is determined to substitute relevancy and addressability for scale as media values. Reach matters to advertisers, but not to audiences. And audiences are what matter most to advertisers.

Accordingly, Greg Shove is right about most media when he observes, "If they make this just a volume play for advertisers, they lose."

This is as good an explanation of how media works as any. It informs the history of mass media, cable television, the rise of the Internet, the fall of AOL, the end of portals, the scourge of "content mills," the long tail, the blogosphere, The Huffington Post -- and, now, maybe -- the return of AOL to the "authentic web."