02/11/2011 04:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Arianna: Congratulations, Spend It Well, and Protect the Huffington Post Brand

Dear Arianna,

Here's a shout out to you, your investors and your editors and staff for your amazing financial and business coup with AOL.

As you know, over the past 5 years I've written over 250 blogs for HuffPost -- happily without pay and mostly about politics from a progressive viewpoint -- going back to February, 2006, when many commentators thought The Huffington Post was Arianna's folly.

My sincerest congratulations on your expanded wealth. I'm a "Bernie Sanders socialist" (which puts me on the political spectrum about even with European conservatives like Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel). But that doesn't mean I've got anything against entrepreneurs having a smart idea, putting in their sweat equity to build a business, raising venture capital, and then reaping the benefit of their efforts. So -- whatever your share of the $315 million buyout price after your VC's take their presumably substantial share -- I hope you set up yourself and your daughters to be financially secure for the rest of yours and their lives.

After that, my personal hope is that you become a mini-George Soros or a mini-Koch brothers for progressives, using the balance not just to fund mainstream charities and mainstream political campaigns, but to help fund grassroots progressive movements that are more than simply surrogates for the Democratic Party but can expand the limits of the possible on the progressive side, as the Tea Party has expanded the limits of the possible on the conservative side.

As for the content of The Huffington Post itself within the larger AOL media empire, my unsolicited advice is that you stay vigilant in protecting the unique Huffington Post brand that you've worked so hard to establish. While The Huffington Post has obviously expanded since the early years to attract readers not just with politics but with entertainment and lifestyle content (and admit it, a little bit of "T & A" too), at its core, The Huffington Post has been a vital outlet for intelligent political commentary coming mostly (though not entirely) from the progressive side of the aisle.

As such, The Huffington Post is not just another news-aggregating website, but a key component in building a progressive movement. The Huffington Post has given a prominent outlet to such important progressive writers and thinkers as Bob Kuttner, Bob Borosage, Bob Reich (whom Obama's new chief economic adviser Gene Sperling disparagingly called "The 3 Bobs"), Dean Baker, David Sirota, and I would modestly include myself. Many HuffPost writers have not just been chearleaders for Barack Obama, but have supported him when they thought he was right and criticized him when they thought he moved too far to the center/right in the name of a false bipartisanship. A key part of The Huffington Post brand is that it's the place to go for smart progressive commentary and movement building.

It strikes me that from a branding perspective, merging The Huffington Post with AOL is a bit like merging Rolling Stone with Readers Digest. They've got very different styles, viewpoints, and readerships. The Huffington Post has established its brand by being provocative, progressive, cutting edge, and highly interactive in building an online community among its readers. AOL, which was once the leading internet company, almost brought down Time-Warner, and is now a backwater for the least sophisticated internet users. I haven't seen the demographics for AOL News readers, but I suspect they mirror AOL internet subscribers and tend to be older, less educated, and less informed than the average Huffington Post reader. Marrying those readers with Huffington Post readers without drastically watering down The Huffington Post content won't be an easy task.

As for those critics who claim Arianna has gotten rich by exploiting unpaid bloggers like myself, I respectfully disagree. Here's the unwritten deal between Arianna and her bloggers: Arianna, her investors and paid staff have invested time and money to build a website with millions of unique readers a month. As a lifelong political activist and observer, I get access to that audience. I hope many in that audience have gotten something from my blogs and, in some small way, they've contributed to building a progressive movement. I thank Arianna and her crew for what they've accomplished. I look forward to blogging for many more years on HuffPost and reaching an even larger audience with progressive views.

All the best,