I think my head just twisted around like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. Betsy Morgan, the former CEO of the Huffington Post, has a new gig as president of The Blaze — the site devoted to sharing the world view of Glenn Beck. The job itself fits right in with Morgan’s expertise. The ideological shift is, well, head turning.
But for Morgan, they’re both businesses, as she explained to the NYT‘s Bill Carter, who broke the news: “I am a very apolitical person. I’m a business person, who is absolutely fascinated by brands.”
It’s been 18 months since Morgan was replaced as HuffPo CEO by board member Eric Hippeau when the unabashedly liberal startup wanted to move faster following a major round of funding. She joined HuffPo in late 2007 from CBS (NYSE: CBS), where she was SVP and GM of CBS.com.
That pedigree makes the new job even more interesting given the anti-CBS sentiment in the conservative movement. The Blaze site describes “a news, information and opinion site brought to you by Glenn Beck and a dedicated team of writers, journalists & video produces.” The goal: “to post, report and analyze stories of interest on a wide range of topics from politics and culture to faith and family.” The banner news alert as I type: “As Heard on Beck TV: ‘The New Role of National Legislative Bodies in the Communist Conspiracy’.”
It’s easy to see why Beck would want someone with Morgan’s background in news and business. The site may have a sense of editorial mission but it would take 22 8 1/2″ x 11″ pages to print out the front page. The key advertisers are from Beck’s standard sponsor pool — Goldline was across the front page just now — and need to be augmented. One reason that HuffPo was able to launch as Arianna Huffington’s personal brand with a political bent and expand beyond that topically was the lack of a direct tie to existing media properties. Beck, on the other hand, has an existing branded mini-empire through his Mercury Radio Arts company, leading with his radio show. (Carter’s story includes some details on the show’s loss of some key affiliates.) That personal brand gives The Blaze its foundation but it may also make it harder to move beyond an expanded “Glenn Beck” site.
That will be up to Morgan. And yes, as far I know, she’s still a HuffPo shareholder.