What’s So Special About The Huffington Post, Anyway?


Arianna Huffington

As you know, it was started by Arianna Huffington, and much of the appeal of the HuffPost can be attributed to her role as a celebrity and a gifted writer. Arianna has written biographies on Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso. Her editorials, usually of a liberal political bent, are crisp and charged with controversy and pizzazz. The liberal bias permeates the HuffPost, so there’s no doubt about what you’re getting.

Visitor counts vary somewhat, according to which sources you look at, but I’m seeing 18 or 19 million visitors a month as a recurring statistic. I’m sure it can fluctuate quite a bit, but it seems to only be going up. Another important aspect to this is they’re getting more than a million comments per month distributed through their multitude of articles.

The layout is attractive with various bright colors used for the section headers, such as sea green for the Home page, deep blue for Politics and dark red for Entertainment. The headlines are huge, such as you would see in the old tabloids or in city newspapers in the twentieth century. Think: TITANIC SINKS IN FOAMY WATERS! You get the effect. They grab your attention. Today’s is: NEW MEXICO HOUSE VOTES TO MOVE STATE’S MONEY. Eye grabbing!

The photos and images are humongous, as if they know ‘every picture tells a story’ or a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’. But you get the picture. Really, the idea behind the HuffPost is that thousands of prominent blogs will all be linked on this one site. Once you read that blog you are led to other links and you travel all around the Internet. The Huffington Post is like a Sam’s Warehouse of bloggers with portals to thousands of writers and Internet sites.

The site has forged partnerships with other big names in content areas, and this has contributed to their success. Some of these cohorts are: TMZ.com, People, Rolling Stone, Variety and Yahoo. Also, many politicians and celebrities have been contributors to the HuffPost, such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Madonna and many, many more. This is surely a no brainer in terms of a magnet for traffic!

They are well-financed too. This can’t hurt. SoftBank Capitol invested $5 million to the site in August of 2006. They have expanded their staff and invested in infrastructure. A new feature is Vlogging, which is video blogging, if you get what that entails? In November 2008, The Huffington Post completed a $15 million fundraising campaign. A month later Oak Investment Partners invested $25 million to the news service. So money is not a problem for them.

Another innovation is the publishing of local versions of the HuffPost. Thus you can see versions of the ‘newspaper’ for New York, for Los Angeles, Chicago and now Denver. I assume you can read stories that are specific to these locales. The old-time newspapers must be cringing from the invasion of their turf. Many of them could be swallowed up by this leviathan. Good business move, I must say!

As an example of a popular piece I looked at one written by Sam Stein with the title Palin Considering 2012 Run, Defends Limbaugh’s Use of ‘Retard’ on Fox News Sunday. I’m trying to understand why this piece has garnered so much traffic. As of 6:07 AM, 2/10/’10, it had 42 Diggs and 18,384 comments. I kid you not! I didn’t see a read count, but I suspect its well over a million.

The bullet to this is that Palin may run for president in 2012. This was widely reported in other news services, so why is the HuffPost getting 18,384 comments? I can only venture a guess, but I believe it’s because people know if their comment is published many people will see it and they get a foot of persuasion into the process. The comments are as important as the article itself. By involving people in the process, they become a part of the media.

Bingo! This is the key to the success of The Huffington Post. There is much variety in the content as well. Really though, politics is their specialty, but they have branched off into entertainment, media, sports, business, living and even green. So there is something for everybody! Just as people like to go to Wal-Mart for all their shopping needs, people also like to go to one news source for their insatiable cravings for information.

While I still prefer Newsblaze and theSOP.org as my news sources, I do see virtues to The Huffington Post. They are a central warehouse of Internet information. I do not believe I have completely learned the mystery of their success, though. One good idea I have, a theory really, is that Arianna Huffington was able to capitalize on George Bush’s overwhelming unpopularity in his second term.

HP was highly critical of the Iraq War too, and it became a rallying point for an increasingly liberal way of thinking. This, I believe, played a major role in the increase of popularity for the HuffPost. But I’m not so sure that they will be able to maintain this ‘King of the Hill’ position. Politics are leaning right as of now.