Media Interviews
In their own words

Arianna Huffington: HuffPost Won't Help Kill Newspapers
The co-founder and top editor of The Huffington Post insists that her popular "Internet newspaper" won't endanger traditional U.S. dailies. "We want to attract traffic," she says. "But we also want to send it back out."

By Patrick Phillips
I Want Media, 1/5/09

Arianna Huffington had a good year in 2008.

The co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post saw her liberal-leaning news and opinion site grow its unique readers year-over-year by a whopping 448% to some 8 million.

HuffPost, the self-described "Internet newspaper," which launched in May 2005, is now worth $200 million, according to some accounts. Its provocative mix of unpaid bloggers and full-time reporters likely helped inspire ambitious online news upstarts like Wowowow and The Daily Beast.

In 2008, HuffPost published a book offering advice on how to blog, and announced its first of a planned U.S. network of local news sites, as well as a project to fund investigative journalism.

The increasingly visible Arianna hosted an "oasis" for attendees at the U.S. Democratic National Convention, substituted for Rachel Maddow on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," and was parodied on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and Fox's "The Simpsons."

She even persuaded the next president of the United States to become a blogger.

To top it all off, Arianna was named the 2008 Media Person of the Year in the annual online election held by I Want Media.

I Want Media: Do you believe you made an impact on the media in 2008?

Arianna Huffington: The way that HuffPost used curated news, instant intelligent opinion, a very engaged community and an expansive citizen journalism initiative created a media model not just for politics but across all our multiple sections -- Business, Media, Entertainment, Green, Style, World, and Living.

HuffPost was also part of the new media landscape that made the 2008 campaign the first truly 21st century presidential race. I'm convinced if it weren't for new media and the Internet, we'd be inaugurating a different president on Jan. 20.

IWM: Was 2008 a special year for you or Huffington Post?

Huffington: 2008 was special in many ways. For me personally, it was the year both my teenage daughters learned to drive -- and one of them got to vote (for Barack Obama, I'm happy to say). It was also a once-in-a-life time campaign, from the first primary to Election Day, and it was a thrill to be covering every twist and turn along the way.

Among the highlights: Mayhill Fowler emerging as a news breaking citizen journalist, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton blogging on our site, the Living section launching our Unplug and Recharge section. I also loved providing free massages and yoga classes to beleaguered conventioneers and reporters at the HuffPost Oasis at the Democratic Convention.

IWM: HuffPost launched a local edition in Chicago this year. A San Francisco edition is coming next. Which market will be targeted after that?

Huffington: We haven't decided what our local rollout will be yet. But we're working on it.

IWM: Is HuffPost contributing to the demise of U.S. daily newspapers in any way?

Huffington: Absolutely not. From the first interview I gave even before we launched The Huffington Post, I made it clear that it wasn't an either/or proposition -- and that, in fact, there was a convergence happening between new and old media, and that the future would be a hybrid one.

The problems the newspaper industry is going through are dramatic. But they would be no less dramatic if HuffPost did not exist. Our model has always been to point to the best content available on the Web and to drive as much traffic as possible to the sites providing that content, including newspaper sites.

We want to attract traffic -- but we also want to send it back out to as many sites as we can. It's one of the things I love most about online news. It's not a zero-sum game.

IWM: Why doesn't HuffPost pay most of the bloggers who are providing content for your site?

Huffington: HuffPost pays its editors and its reporters. We don't pay for opinion pieces but, then again, bloggers have no deadlines or commitments. They contribute when they want, and as often or as infrequently as they like.

IWM: HuffPost has attracted many big-name contributors. Who would else you like to get?

Huffington: We're always on the lookout for new and notable bloggers with something interesting to say.

High on my wish list is "First Granny" Marian Robinson. I think her decision to move into the White House to help Malia and Sasha make the transition to a new school, new friends and the presidential spotlight is a powerful teachable moment for America. I'd love to have her blog about it.

IWM: HuffPost saw a 20% drop in U.S. visitors after the presidential election. How do you plan to keep hold of your massive audience?

Huffington: Moving forward, we'll focus on being the Internet newspaper by doing what we've done with our political coverage on all our other sections -- offering more of what we do best: news with a smart point of view, opinion that's sharp and responsive, coupled with a really engaged community.

IWM: Would HuffPost ever contemplate a print spin-off? Maybe a Huffington Post magazine?

Huffington: We're completely focused on growing our online operation.

IWM: What does the new HuffPost book on blogging tell us about blogs that we don't already know?

Huffington: It's an A-to-Z guide on blogging that has something for everyone, from the tech-challenged newbie looking to get a handle on this new way of communicating to experienced bloggers looking to take their work to the next level.

In the three-and-half years since HuffPost launched, we've learned a lot about what does and doesn't work when it comes to blogging. We've gathered it all together in this book, together with some terrific examples from some of our great bloggers like Larry David, Nora Ephron, Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin and Erica Jong.

IWM: Your latest round of financing will help fund investigative journalism. How will that work?

Huffington: The details are still being finalized. But the goal is to set up a fund that will allow us to commission a wide range of investigative work, from short reported pieces to long-term investigative projects.

IWM: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark has described HuffPost as "a successful reinvention of business models for journalism." Do you see HuffPost as a pioneer of new journalism models?

Huffington: We try to keep our attention on what we are doing. If others choose to follow that same path, that's great. It means we are on to something.

IWM: What are your predictions for the media world for 2009?

Huffington: I see more reportorial innovations happening online. For instance, I think we will see an explosion of news sites engaging their communities in the editorial process.

Citizen journalists will, among other things, recommend stories, produce raw data for original reported stories, write original stories, record exclusive in-the-field video, search through large amounts of documents for hidden gems and trends, and much more.

IWM: Any New Year's resolutions?

Huffington: My motto for 2009: Unplug and recharge. That is, to regularly disconnect from our always connected, 24/7 world and reconnect to that quiet, centered place within… so that I can then reconnect with the world fully charged.




Copyright © 2000-2009 I Want Media Inc. All rights reserved.