During her Sept. 28 visit to "The Daily Show," liberal media magnate Arianna Huffington dropped a surprise for Jon Stewart and his audience: free bus rides for New Yorkers who wants to attend Stewart's 10/30 "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington. But as big of a surprise as it was to Stewart and his fans, it was reportedly an even bigger surprise to to everyone back at HuffPo headquarters.
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For an estimated $250,000, Huffington has promised 100 buses bound for the rally. But according to TheWrap, the financial commitment is dizzying to HuffPo executives who are looking to capitalize on the move. “Arianna has a sixth sense for promotion, for capturing lots of attention,” HuffPo's President Greg Coleman said in an interview with TheWrap. “We were surprised when she made that offer. She didn’t tell us. But inside the Huffington Post this does nothing to hurt our revenues.”
“What we’re working on is turning this into an opportunity. Working with largest marketers in country to sponsor this Sanity Bus Tour. This one is going to cost us some money, and we are looking at this as an opportunity," he said.
But some of Huffington Post’s finance executives are wincing, according to insiders.
[T]he announcement was a “shock to the system” back at HuffPo, according to one insider, where employees were left to deal with curiosity seekers wandering by to sign up for the buses. (On the air, Huffington invited rally-goers to “just come to the Huffington Post, 560 Broadway in Soho; the bus will be there, we’ll take you with us!”)
And bean-counters wondered how much it was going to cost at a time when the company is seeking to show revenue growth and fiscal discipline.
The company was in talks to be acquired by Yahoo! -- where HuffPo CEO Eric Hippeau is on the board of directors -- in the spring, but those talks broke off inconclusively after the two sides could not agree on a valuation for the site.
Meanwhile, HuffPo has reportedly been getting quite the response. “We are all super excited about it,” HuffPo spokesman Mario Ruiz told TheWrap, “along with over 11,000 who have signed up. Everyone from the company’s been ‘on board’ from the get-go, and we can’t wait for Oct. 30.”
Not to be outdone, Stephen Colbert, host of the Colbert Report, has challenged Huffington to also provide bus transportation for his rival "Keep Fear Alive" rally on the same day as Stewart's.