But if Huffington is only lending her brand to AOL and the acquisition is really just about a website, he said, "Then it's just an incremental addition to AOL's audience."
In a post today on the acquisition, Carlson said Huffington Post insiders say that Huffington was more than a famous face for the site. She leveraged her network of high-profile friends and dove into the news site's nitty-gritty.
Andrew Frank, media analyst for research firm Gartner Inc., said the acquisition of The Huffington Post shows that the future of content-oriented online publishers is to become more like holding companies.
Just as mainstream companies, such as Viacom and Disney (ABC News' parent company) encompass a number of independent brands, Frank said AOL is becoming more of an umbrella company than a single identifiable brand. And, he added, Huffington's track record in Internet publishing bodes well for AOL's future there.
"The good news is she's clearly shown herself to be not just a pundit but a knowledgeable business woman who's seen as an icon of success in Internet publishing, which is pretty rare," he said. "I think she has a good deal of credibility going into the role."
Although Fox News described AOL's Huffington Post acquisition as veering "left," Frank said he doesn't expect Huffington's politics to spill over into the additions to her editorial empire.
"I suspect that the reality is going to be that they maintain diversity and balance. I don't think it's necessarily in anyone's interest to inject too much politics into the broad portfolio," he said.
But though Huffington and her news site might ultimately return AOL to Internet influence, the stock market didn't respond too favorably to the news today.
By midafternoon Monday, AOL shares were down about 3.3 percent to $21.21 per share.
"This is not a take-over-Yahoo Hail Mary pass, but, judging by the stock's reaction, it is possibly some people's definition of a Haily Mary pass that Tim Armstrong said they wouldn't do," David Joyce, media analyst for Miller Tabak, LLC, said in an e-mail.
Still, he said, The Huffington Post is "a strategic content fit that could accelerate the path to profitability for some of AOL properties."