“I’m Predicting It’ll Be At Least As Successful As Arianna’s Last Campaign For Governor And You Can Quote Me On That.” -Ned Rice, National Review Online, May 25, 2005

Robert Greenwald at Huffington Post:

And what a wonderful birthday party it is, for an extraordinary five years of the Huffington Post! It’s time to celebrate, with birthday hats, cake, noisemakers – especially the noisemakers, to pay tribute to an organization that’s been making plenty of noise since its inception five years ago.

Think back to those sad and lonely days when we didn’t have the Huffington Post to help us, educate us, lift our spirits up and energize us. Who would ever have imagined that five years later, we would have something that surpassed the Drudge Report by a thousand miles, with much more traffic, original reporting, more political impact and more fun. With real facts and actual reporting.

And Arianna rose to the challenge. Ignored the naysayers, won over those who were sure it would fail, and has built something unique and long lasting.

Watching the changes, improvements, and additions to the Huffington Post in the five years since then has been a thrill and an inspiration.

With National Editor Nico Pitney and a great group of news editors finding the most interesting and engaging content, the site’s impact just grows and grows.

Star reporters such as Sam Stein, Ryan Grim, Arthur Delaney, and Dan Froomkin proved that digging, probing, and asking the questions that weren’t being asked could pay off, big-time. As evidence, consider that exciting moment when Sam was called on at a press briefing by President Obama. Talk about coming a long way in a short time!

Columbia Journalism Review has five articles on HuffPo

Liz Cox Barrett at CJR:

What is a birthday without being reminded of what you were like when you were first born, according to some of your peevish relatives (the ones who always knew you’d amount to nothing)?

And so, below, some (very) early media reactions to the birth of The Huffington Post. Or, the Top 5 UNENTHUSIASTIC HuffPo Reviews of 2005 (NO PHOTOS).

1. Nikki Finke, LA Weekly, May 12, 2005, “Celebs to the Slaughter: Why Arianna’s Blog Blows.”

Sample:

Judging from Monday’s horrific debut of the humongously pre-hyped celebrity blog the Huffington Post, the Madonna of the mediapolitic world has undergone one reinvention too many. She has now made an online ass of herself. What her bizarre guru-cult association, 180-degree right-to-left conversion, and failed run in the California gubernatorial-recall race couldn’t accomplish, her blog has now done: She is finally played out publicly. This website venture is the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable. Her blog is such a bomb that it’s the movie equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one. In magazine terms, it’s the disastrous clone of Tina Brown’s Talk, JFK Jr.’s George or Maer Roshan’s . No matter what happens to Huffington, it’s clear Hollywood will suffer the consequences. It seems like some sick hoax…

“The Internet Newspaper” has its charms, but “Making an online ass of herself…” since 2005 might also look striking under the green Huffington Post logo.

2. Ned Rice, National Review Online, May 25, 2005, “The Drudgery Report”

Sample:

Arianna pitched this latest elaborate ploy to write off her cocktail parties as a business expense in terms of it being a “group blog,” which is another way of calling it a personal journal-by-committee with all the charm, originality and integrity that that implies. Others describe it as a virtual think tank, although judging from what “The Huffington Post” has trotted out so far it feels mostly like a groupthink tank. … I’m predicting it’ll be at least as successful as Arianna’s last campaign for governor and you can quote me on that.

In 2003, Huffington received 47,505 votes for governor. In March 2010, according to Nielsen Online, The Huffington Post had 13 million unique visitors.

3. Cal Thomas, Tribune Media Services, May 13, 2005, “The Blog That Ate Real Journalism”

Sample:

The Huffington Post, an Internet blog that debuted May 9 after a campaign that would have delighted P.T. Barnum, makes me nostalgic for the good old days of journalism. It isn’t that its founder, Arianna Huffington…doesn’t have every right to join the increasingly clogged blog superhighway…

The problem with blogs such as The Huffington Post is that they divert our attention from real and serious journalism…

With blogs, we do not know if what we read is true. For most blogs, no editor checks for factual errors and no one is restrained from editorializing… Blogs have no checks and balances.

I suspect – and hope – that once the bloom is off the blogs, serious people (and they seem to be an endangered species) might still crave real journalism and be able to remember what it looked and sounded like.

The problem with blogs such as Cal Thomas’s is that they consist of the authors’ (presumably factual-error-free) syndicated newspaper columns re-configured to look sort of blog post-ish.

Clint Hendler at CJR:

I don’t love the prime element behind Huffington Post’s business model: the army of unpaid writers whose work generates traffic to subsidize a small group of editors and reporters. But no one forces anyone to write for free, and The Huffington Post can plausibly claim that the writers get some intangibles—exposure and a small amount of cachet among them. That someone would centralize and harness for their own profit a pool of writers who could have started their own unpaid blogs was a smart, if inevitable, move. And once you start to talk in terms of the inevitable, it becomes hard to blame those who merely recognized the opportunity.

So it is with their repackaging of news that’s reported elsewhere. It may feel unseemly to see the salient points of an article reproduced at the Huffington Post site with a bare link, and little incentive for the reader to click through. But repackaging someone else’s reporting for your own profit, without payment, was not invented by The Huffington Post, nor any other Internet site. Think of all the warmed-over stories that make the grist of local radio. Nightly affiliate news programs have long feasted on reporting done by newspapers. The Huffington Post has mostly just updated the practice for the Internet age.

And finally, perhaps it’s a minor point, but I ought to mentin the endless parade of sleaze—nip slips, boob tape, bikini shots—pushed out by the site. This is not content that would go in your father’s sober-minded newspaper, and sometimes I have difficulty taking the best content at the site seriously, knowing that Celebrity Skin is just a vertical away. But what about your father’s television network? Have we ever judged local TV news reporters by the fact that their station also ran Baywatch? The national networks for sharing their airwaves with the worst of reality TV? The newspapers who tell you the truth on the front page, and sell you the lie of a horoscope inside?

Ryan Chittum at CJR:

Let’s get it out of the way up top that I think The Huffington Post is a mess—a schizophrenic, mostly unreadable hunk of tabloid journalism leavened with serious stuff.

I mean, where else can you read a droning missive on the BP oil spill by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, helpfully identified as “Spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide,” on the same screen as “Lawrence Taylor RAPE Arrest: NFL Legend ARRESTED For Attacking Teenager” and “Elisabeth Hasselbeck SLAMS Erin Andrews’ Clothing, Excuses Stalker”?

Eyeballs JARRED. Reader GOOGLY-EYED After Reading HuffPo.

And I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t looked at the site in a year, and thought it was still just a mix of celebrity op-eds and tabloid junk.

But that’s a superficial (if understandable) read these days. In the space I cover, the business press, the site has been doing some serious reporting lately.

Zero in on Shahien Nasiripour’s work, which has quickly become a must-read for anyone covering the financial crisis or who’s just curious about it. Last month, I noted how his coverage of a congressional hearing far surpassed that of, ahem, more august outfits like The New York Times and The Washington Post:

The Huffington Post, the Times, and the Post were all at the same hearing, and only the HuffPo came out with the news.That’s a single instance, but it was important news. The head of mortgage lending for Bank of America came out in support of cramdown, which would allow bankruptcy judges to lower the principal on underwater mortgages.

Kevin Drum:

HuffPo does do a fair amount of very good reporting on business and financial reform issues. It requires a seemingly endless stream of flotsam and jetsam to subsidize all this, but hey — you’ve got to subsidize it somehow. If you’re not the Wall Street Journal, covering this stuff just doesn’t pay.

I suppose this kind of tabloidy mashup of salacious trivia with serious reporting might be a model for the future. Not the one we all had in mind when news first started going online, but it wouldn’t be the first time the human race was surprised by what ended up working and what didn’t.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

CJR celebrates with five pieces on the online dynamo that is The Huffington Post, the site that proved that liberals on the internet are just as dumb as Republicans on the internet, comment-wise. I sure thought it was a dumb idea when it launched, but boy oh boy have I been proven wrong. America cannot get enough of popular celeb friend Arianna Huffington. She sows, we all reap!

Mike Shields at Mediaweek:

The Huffington Post has enjoyed meteoric traffic growth since launching five years ago, and buzz to match. Now it’s time for the site’s business side to catch up.

Industry veteran Greg Coleman, who became the site’s chief revenue officer last September, said the goal is to double HuffPo’s revenue this year and next—a goal he expects to exceed in 2010 (publisher reports put the site’s 2009 revenue at $15 million).

Since being hired, Coleman has brought on 18 experienced sales executives who have helped land dollars from General Electric, Siemens, Mercedes, HP, and most recently IBM and Discovery. But HuffPo is still under the radar at some agencies, despite reaching 22 million unique users in April.

“We have world-class editorial [and] world-class technology, but our ad sales operation is virtually a startup,” said Coleman. Upon arriving, he found a small sales team with little experience and no syndicated research. “The way business was conducted in the past, we’d wait for RFPs to come in. That was it. What we are doing [now] is introducing the brand to a lot of people.”

According to CEO Eric Hippeau, HuffPo will be profitable in 2010 for the first time. Until recently, “we’ve been in investment mode,” he said.

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