Inside the New Huffington Post
April 15, 2011
Four Seasons Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, California
Moderator: Cathy Brooks, Founder & Host, The Conversation
Adam Rose, Standards Editor
Taylor Gray, SVP Marketing
Cindy Murphy, Director Sales
Victoria Fine, Impact Editor
Ryan McCarthy, Business Editor
So, What’s Changed?
TG: The merger is tremendously exciting. We have access to more tools that we can use to help our clients with content creation. But, the most exciting thing is our new ability to dramatically amplify the implementation of HuffPost’s vision. We’re doing what we wanted to do, but we’re doing it all at once with a higher level of quality.
CM: The merger has added a whole new contingent of offices and colleagues on the West Coast. And, AOL’s expertise helps tremendous in explaining the value of socialization of content to prospective clients.
AR: Think about it like this: We went from driving a really fast car to piloting a jet. Our destination is the same; our speed is greater. The ability to report news in real time is a practical reality. We have more talent, more expertise, more technologies, and more boots on the ground, which allow us to empower people in ways we could not have done before the merger.
Is HuffPost at Risk of Falling Victim to Profit over Purpose?
TG: This has not been an uncommon thought among people throughout the merger, but HuffPost will always be driven by purpose. At huffpost we are free to do our work. We have entrepreneurial reporters and editors who all want to make the news better.
VF: Purpose is front and center with impact and education sections. Not only do we link impact and education stories to ways that people can take action but we are able to put the idea of taking action into the minds of readers–the merger has only expanded our ability to do that.
Should Bloggers Be Paid?
HuffPost is a unique organization being a hybrid of staff reporters and editors with an army of freelance bloggers—some of whom feel they should get a fair share monetarily speaking.
AR: The blog team is handled separately from the news team. Reporters and editors are staff—they are tied to being in the office regularly and at other times as needed, they have meetings, they must meet deadlines, and they are responsible for providing comprehensive news coverage. The majority of content at HuffPost is paid content, produced by staff, from AP, etc. Bloggers are a fantastic and critical aspect of who we are and how we do what we do, and the vast majority of bloggers love huffpost. Our bloggers provide opinions, perspectives, and commentary on the news we report—a highly valuable contribution that stimulates dialogue about the news.
VF: Not everyone who blogs wants to become a journalist. Most of the people who blog for impact and education due so because they have a passion that they want to share and would not otherwise be heard in mainstream media.
AR/RM: Every large site within AOL will be interacting with huffpost in some significant way at some point—some things will take longer than others to figure out—still early in the process.
CM: Easy share features of huffpost will be available across AOL outlets—great opportunity to expand communities.
TG: AOL is a different company now. On the inside, it really looks like the huffpost bought AOL. AOL has given Ariana the keys to build the editorial team.
A question was asked as to why HuffPost had a divorce section but not a jobs section.
CM: Actually my question was why we have a divorce section and not a family section. Regardless, the verticals at HuffPost have develop out of passions expressed by staff, readers, social communities, etc. We currently have entertainment, food, divorce, and many others. We will likely have a section on jobs. HuffPost will always be focused on helping people express themselves about the topics they are most passionate about.
TG: AOL is more conservative than huffpost. The two pieces of the business do target different audiences, and will continue to have different home pages with different styles of entry. But, there is more diversity in both of those audiences than people realize. HuffPost has many conservative banks as advertisers, and they are happy advertising with HuffPost.
AR: HuffPost is trying to move beyond left and right. For example, we do not view unemployment as left or right; it’s an issue that affects the ability of people to put a roof over their family’s heads and that’s what matters. HuffPost embraces and welcomes different political viewpoints and will continue to do so.
Working with Brand & Social Media Experts
CM: The Univ. of Phoenix did a social media program with HuffPost last year that deliberately elicited comments on the content they posted. When negative comments to their content showed up, they were prepared to respond at the brand level; however, they did not have to. An individual who participated in the program at the Univ. of Phoenix responded in a post that described the positive experience that individual had with the program and the benefit they obtained from it. The negative comments were addressed in the natural course of the conversation that the Univ. of Phoenix stimulated.
CM: HuffPost is often the party that brings the brand experts and social media experts at a client together.
TG: Often, clients don’t put specific money aside to engage in social media programs. Often we can combine a brand/media buy with the social marketing programs we put together. Our goal is to evolve beyond that—to get to a point where we are publishing client content and messaging across HuffPost as well as other sites.
RM/AR: One way to integrate social media with reporting the news about corporate brands is to allow people to comment on the news via a blog account so that all who read the news will see the comment.
TG: The traditional media way was to report the news and require people to come to you to get it. The new media way is to report the news and allow people to comment on it, become part of it, and/or take action as a result of it—to participate in the news wherever it is.
What About Patch & Localization
AR: We have locals for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver.
RM: We are using Patch now and it will continue to be rolled out over the next couple years. We’re actually doing a Patch integrated story next week on the job crisis, which is a good example of how the AOL merger is turbo charging what HuffPost has always wanted to do.
Will You Follow the NYT and Have Paid Subscriptions?
HuffPost will always be free.
Tips for PR Professionals Who Want to Work with HuffPost
- Don’t pitch. Just talk with us about trends, new developments, etc.; share interesting information that our readers will want/need to know.
- Be authentic, be honest.
- Tell stories: Stories that depicts one moment that illustrates your message—the how of what happened and the effect it had on people you are trying to help; or stories that illustrate successes and failures within your initiatives with the intent to support the success of others.
- When news about your organization breaks, HuffPost will fix it quickly—our goal is 100% correction rate. Just hit the “Report a Correction” button at the bottom of the page.
In Brief: With the merger, HuffPost has access to new technologies, new resources for clients, more boots on the ground, broader and deeper expertise which means that we will be able to achieve our original vision much more quickly. We can report more comprehensively, enable more integration with social to stimulate dialogues, encourage people to take action, allow people to express their passions—and continue to put purpose over profit, providing content free to anyone with an Internet connection. It’s all good, and it’s likely to get even better. Stay tuned.
Contributed by Lisa B. English, PhD, APR; Silicon Valley PRSA Board of Directors; Vice President HiveMind Marketing, Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org).