Tag Archives: huffington post

AOL needs to be patient with UK’s Huffington Post

Expect a lot of sniffy reviews of the Huffington Post today. That’s par for the course: a short, odd-looking interloper is bursting into a roomful of graceful, if elderly brands. Scrappy-Doo at a cocktail party.

It’s a tough crowd. With The Guardian having long ago signed up a number of leading voices to its Comment Is Free platform and niche networks, outlets from The Telegraph to the New Statesman having signed up many other major bloggers, and remaining high profile bloggers having enough traffic and profile to no longer need any help, HuffPo UK looks like it is fighting for scraps.

In the US Arianna Huffington was well known, and HuffPo positioned itself as a liberal alternative to a homogenous mainstream. It was an early mover – and still attracted enormous criticism, with the launch widely seen as a flop.

But success is in the eye of the beholder.

HuffPo UK is launching with a small and relatively low-profile staff, which puts it under less pressure financially and gives it room to look like a growing company.

It is focused on building a news platform from a network, rather than the other way round, which still makes it relatively unique.

And while there are plenty of similar networks covering niches such as science and technology, no one has yet attempted this at a mass market level. There may just be a gap for an effective networked aggregator in the notoriously competitive UK market.

The missing piece of the jigsaw is how much ad sales muscle there will be behind the site. There are some obvious economies of scale in selling ads through staff at both AOL UK and the US Huffington Post, but that approach has flaws. If HuffPo UK comes undone anywhere, it may be at the hands of a competitive UK advertising market.

But its major weakness – the fact that it doesn’t have much of a history – might also be its biggest advantage. The only baggage it carries is the acquisition by AOL. That is not insignificant, but neither is it insurmountable. It is free to build an identity around its users – and if it’s sensible, that’s what it will do. It can no longer pretend to be the outsider it once was.

Launching without a community manager in post is a problem on that front, but it also suggests that they take the role seriously enough to be prepared to take their time in finding the right person. They’ve done well to recruit dozens of bloggers without one, but they need a dedicated staffer on that front fast.

Without that person their approach to bloggers can seem slapdash, with little care paid to explaining why a blogger might want to sign up to the HuffPo UK project, what that project is, or who the people are behind it.

Building that brand, and those relationships, is going to take time. If HuffPo UK is going to work, AOL will need to allow for that, and not expect instant results.

No, blogging for free is not feudalism

Image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

Image by jimmiehomeschoolmom on Flickr

The sale of the Huffington Post has sparked another raft of posts about how we’re all suckers for building up the value of these companies through giving away our content for free.

The New York Times’s David Carr is typical, describing users as “A Nation of Serfs” and quoting Reuters’ Anthony De Rosa’s similar soundbite “a world of digital feudalism”.

Carr misses the point entirely: that this is not “people working free” (sic) but an exchange. A user exchanges demographic details and content for the functionality offered by Facebook. They put their photos on Flickr because they benefit from the network, access, and tools.

This is nothing new: we do not criticise telephone companies for being built on people ‘giving away their content’ in the form of the billions of conversations that take place across those networks. Or the demographic data we hand over when we sign up. Oh, and we pay them.

It’s a symptom of journalistic egocentrism that it should seem odd that other people hand over their content ‘for free’ (and of being a little threatened?).

Another symptom is to see the likes of Twitter and Facebook as content platforms, rather than communication networks.

Even the Huffington Post is a network as well as a content platform – the interesting problem for that site in selling to AOL is that while some people will have been happy to contribute for the network benefits (access to likeminded individuals), some will not.

But here’s where feudalism is no comparison to make. Serfs didn’t have a choice. Huffpo bloggers can leave – as indeed, many left similar operations before (Anthony De Rosa‘s analysis is sophisticated enough to recognise this). One of the questions occupying my mind at the moment is whether the current domination of Facebook will turn out to be a stepping stone to other forms of blogging, or if the social network will be enough for most people.

The fundamental point is that this is a marketplace, and if the exchange does not feel fair, users will move on – as they did with MySpace, and Friendster before that.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a wider problem around corporatisation of the public sphere, but don’t insult millions of people by calling them serfs.

Hyperlocal Voices: Phyllis Stephen, Edinburgh Reporter

Edinburgh Reporter

Yessi Bello continues the Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews, talking to the Edinburgh Reporter‘s Phyllis Stephen.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?

I am the person behind it. I had just graduated with a Masters in Journalism and needed to find an outlet for my work based here in Edinburgh. It seemed to me – particularly after attending the News Re:Wired conference in January 2010 – that hyperlocal is the new buzzword and that I could do it right here on my own doorstep.

I had loads of new multimedia skills desperately needing to be used and practiced. Prior to that I had been a solicitor for a number of years but took a career swerve in 2008 when I decided to go back to university. Same skills – different result! Continue reading

C&binet: The mice that roared. Or at least wrote some things on Post-Its.

I spent today at the hyperlocal C&binet event, organised by Creative Industries MP Sion Simon at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. I’ve already blogged my thoughts leading up to event but thought I would add some more links and context.

For me, it is significant that this happened at all. Normally these sorts of events are dominated by large publishers with lobbying muscle. Yet here we had a group combining hyperlocal bloggers, successful startups like Facebook, Ground Report, Global Voices and the Huffington Post, social media figures like Nick Booth and Jon Bounds, and traditional organisations like The Guardian, BBC, RSA and Ofcom. Jeff Jarvis pitched into the mix via Skype.

As for the event itself, it began the previous afternoon with a presentation from Enders Analysis, embedded below: Continue reading

Use a crowd, gain an expert

Karthika Muthukumaraswamy on how crowdsourcing experiments in journalism need to learn from their commercial counterparts – and how the end results could bring financial rewards for everyone.

The crowd has done a great deal for journalism: it has counted the number of SUVs on the streets of New York City, determined Bill Clinton’s financial impact on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and offered valuable suggestions to transform an impoverished Ugandan village.

Ever since journalism jumped on the crowdsourcing bandwagon following innovative business models in T-shirt designing and problem solving, it has been baffled by the intensity of crowd response. Consequently, the media’s implementation of it has lacked the selection process that is essential to use crowdsourcing to its fullest potential.

There are only so many T-shirts that Threadless can make and sell; there are only so many solutions to Innocentive’s complex problems; and there are only so many photographs that iStockphoto consumers will purchase. Continue reading

US election coverage – who’s making the most of the web?

Elections bring out the best in online journalism. News organisations have plenty of time to plan, there’s a global audience up for grabs, and the material lends itself to interactive treatment (voter opinions; candidates’ stances on various issues; statistics and databases; constant updates; personalisation).

Not only that, but the electorate is using the internet for election news more than any other medium apart from television (and here are some reasons why).

PaidContent has a good roundup of various UK editors’ views, and decides blogs, Twitter and data are the themes (more specifically, liveblogging and mapping). Continue reading