Arianna Huffington, the charismatic and self-invented founder of the Huffington Post, is stepping down as the site’s editor-in-chief to build a new site around the concepts of health and wellness.
The move comes a few weeks after the Huffington Post’s parent company, Verizon, acquired the fading digital powerhouse Yahoo.
Huffington ascribed her departure to the desire to pursue her separate and new initiative, called Thrive Global, built around the concepts of wellness and striking a balance between work and personal realms.
“I’ve become more and more passionate — okay, obsessed — with burnout and stress and how we can reduce their impact on our lives,” Huffington wrote in a memo to staff. “One of the Thrive principles is knowing when it’s time for a new chapter to begin.”
She had earlier come in for criticism for leveraging her site to promote her book on the same subject.
At its founding in 2005, Huffington Post was built on the luster of unpaid celebrity bloggers and the sweat of lightly paid junior journalists who aggregated, condensed and lightly rewrote coverage from other news sites around the world. The site took a distinctively liberal cast, built on the embers of opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It also figured out how to generate traffic and clicks in the era just before social media, becoming one of the most popular news sites in the country. Over time, Huffington Post added dozens of original reporters who wrote on politics, social protest, entertainment, drug use, war and other topics.
Huffington scored a fortune when AOL bought the the site for $315 million in 2011, at which point Huffington was given the title of editor-in-chief of AOL. Verizon in turn acquired AOL last year. The sale of Yahoo to Verizon this summer, as the telecommunications giant sought to add digital content capability, cast into relief the questions of the role Huffington would play and the status of Huffington Post as a distinct brand.
On Thursday, Huffington said the Yahoo deal did not inform her decision to leave, which took staffers by surprise. The site’s CEO, Jared Grusd, told staffers the Huffington Post would continue to focus on news and politics, as well as Huffington’s own interests on wellness and a balanced lifestyle, according to reports from the site’s own media reporter, Michael Calderone.
Last year, Huffington told NPR that the media chooses to “focus mostly on bad news — crazies, rapes, mayhem.” At that time, she announced a new focus of Huffington Post on good news and solutions.
Now she’s off to focus full time on what she says is the good news about wellness.