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A quick case study – The Huffington Post

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You must have heard about the Huffington Post, otherwise I’m not sure what world you’re living in (not the Social World, that’s for sure). The Huffington Post was recently acquired by AOL, who paid more than $300 million for the ‘internet newspaper’. It was big news across the globe. I would say AOL acquired The Huffington Post in order to remain competitive. AOL used to be a huge portal back in days, but it’s been loosing a lot of traffic to other places in the web. The key in this business is to remain adaptable. The way we communicate is constantly changing, businesses must best prepared for anything if they want to remain competitive.

Overall Analysis

So, after all, what is The Huffington Post about? What could have possibly caught AOL’s attention, and for 300M? Well… the whole concept is pretty different. Huffington Post is a social newspaper, where each reader has its own account. As any social network, you can have friends and check their activities. You can keep track of your comments, friends, followers, etc. Similar to Foursquare you get badges depending on your level of activity inside the network.

On Huffington you can get 3 different badges: networker, superuser and moderator. The most important feature of the online journal is that it aggregates content. There are full time workers who write the articles in a regular basis, but their key social factor is that any user that is registered in the network can also publish content.

The members

Jason Linkis, Huffington Post reporter, explains in his article why people would be motivated to write at Huffington if they are not being paid. Most of them do it to get exposure, says Jason. There are millions of blogs out there, but many of them are not easy to find. Bloggers have to work hard on finding the right SEO keywords, and making sure their blogs are SEO friendly. In The Huffington Post that is not the case. The audience and the SEO is already there, blogger don’t have to worry about that. But they still need to make sure they’re writing something that people care about and have an interested sharing.

Other example that Jason mentioned in his article is when a New York Times reporter decided to write about his personal vision on Iran, because he simply didn’t have the chance to do so in the NYT. They were not interested in publishing his thoughts, they wanted real facts. Huffington Post is very flexible in that way.

Why the attention?

Online news websites are usually the same – a lot of images, videos, share buttons and (usually) good content. The Huffington Post stood out, they did something different. Similar to what wikipedia does, they decided to rely in the user’s collaboration. Of course, they could not make sure the content would be good and the frequency of collaboration would be ideal. So they decided to hire their own staff as well, which worked perfectly. It was a great balance, and a good way to keep news updated in a regular basis.

Some ways to improve

For being a social newspaper, The Huffington Post doesn’t do a great job of sharing information. I’ve looked for some data on number of members, articles written daily, etc. I couldn’t find any of that. Another point, even more important, is the fact that they don’t clearly explain what they do. If you’re in Social you want to make sure your audience understands what you do, and how they are supposed to start using your website. Unfortunately Huffington does not do that, not that I’ve noticed at least.


Written by Cristina Dresch

May 10, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Posted in Digital, Publishing, Social

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