Verizon has announced that it will be acquiring AOL, which just so happens to be the parent company of websites like The Huffington Post, Engadget and TechCrunch.
Because of the fact that Verizon now owns these websites, there is a lot of question about their editorial integrity going forward and whether or not readers should be worried about bias toward Verizon and Verizon-owned products, especially considering the fact that Verizon is not the most loved company in America.
It's important to remember that Verizon purchasing AOL really is not related to websites like Huffington Post and TechCrunch. Instead, the company aims to beef up its mobile advertising and mobile video business. What this means is that it's entirely possible that Verizon could sell websites like Huffington Post and Engadget to a company more interested in news. Of course, it also could not sell the websites, instead controlling the articles that are published and showing bias toward itself.
Despite this, it's important to note that Huffington Post and Engadget are their own companies. At least for now, they have total editorial control.
"Regardless of the actions or views of our new corporate parent, Engadget's mission will always be to impartially report the news with wit and insight," said Michael Gorman, editor-in-chief at Engadget.
In fact, Verizon has been known to publish bias toward its company in the past. Last year the company started a website called SugarString, which was an attempt to compete with other consumer tech websites. Shortly after starting it, the website was shut down amid complaints by its own editors that the company had forbidden any stories about government surveillance and net neutrality, both issues that Verizon is involved in with views that generally oppose those of the public.
Despite this, according to Verizon, AOL's brands will be free to publish whatever they want.
Now, while Engadget and Huffington Post might be free to publish whatever they want, that certainly does not mean that readers know that or trust when they say that. In Gorman's post, the comments section was wrought with readers voicing their opinion on the acquisition, with comments ranging from, "I know where I am not coming for news anymore," to suggesting that Verizon could even fire Engadget staff and rehire staff who are more willing to comply with Verizons views.
So, what does the change in ownership mean for the likes of Huffington Post, Engadget and TechCrunch? Well, in the immediate future, nothing. Look a little further ahead, however, and their future is a little bit more uncertain.