Kara Swisher

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AOL-HuffPo Deal Officially Closes Today–More Big Media Hires Signal New Content Direction Under Arianna

AOL will officially close its $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post today, according to several sources close to the situation.

The culmination of the deal–which has already been approved by regulators–is set to be announced by the New York-based company this morning, only one month after it was struck.

And–in a clear sign of the shift in its focus toward a more editorially driven direction under the now-official content head Arianna Huffington (pictured here)–sources said the closing will be accompanied by the announcement of the hiring of a half-dozen journalists to AOL’s new Huffington Post Media Group unit.

Among the new reporters are some more high-profile grabs from other media giants, including The Daily’s Jon Ward. He has been the Washington bureau chief for New Corp.’s high-profile online newspaper, which only recently launched.

Also set to join AOL is Yahoo’s senior media writer Michael Calderone.

Interestingly, along with more experienced editorial staff, sources said the announcement will also include new hires via the Huffington Post’s Jefferson Program for Young Journalists.

Sources said the new hires are only the beginning of a series of them, as the impact of the leadership of Huffington becomes clearer.

Along with the news and opinion site, the well-known media personality is now in charge of all of AOL’s varied content properties, including its locally aimed Patch.

Huffington, with obviously strong support from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, has been talking a lot in a plethora of interviews since the deal was announced a few weeks ago about the importance of creating a new media organization focused on original reporting.

In a way, AOL is now competing with big news sites such as those on Yahoo, as well as smaller niche content and also mainstream entities.

Even before the deal was struck with AOL, the Huffington Post had been heading down that path of pulling in mainstream journalists. Last year, it hired former New York Times economics writer Peter Goodman and former Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, among others.

The formula? Adding the strong journalism reputation of these reporters to the eclectic mix of socializing, blogging, celebritizing and aggressive aggregating that the site has used to garner huge amounts of traffic in recent years.

As I had previously written, the AOL Way–the same for a strategy document about content on the site–is now the Arianna Way.

Here are Huffington and Armstrong talking about such issues in in an exclusive video interview BoomTown did with them just before they announced the deal on Super Bowl Sunday about a month ago:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work