I was very excited to get to hear Arianna Huffington at today’s keynote at Internet Retailer and how she views the change of our society and our future with the growth areas online. Huffington seemed to have a conversation with the audience — I felt like I could sit on a couch with her and discuss the future possibilities of the online world for hours.
Huffington began by stating that she sees two worlds today: a dying offline world and a growing online world. When she started The Huffington Post several years back, she mainly had three goals in mind:
Give more voice to more authors. Her first author was Arthur Schlesinger, whom she had to educate about blogs over coffee one day. She shared that Schlesinger used to fax her his blog posts! At one point, Schlesinger made commentary on some of President George Bush’s comments, leading to a debate about the piece and the comments as well. Huffington emphasized that this had been the goal — Schlesinger “deposited fuel for a national conversation”.In the years since, The Huffington Post has had many authors, some known and some unknown. But overall, the goal has been to maintain civil conversation, and thus, they have invested heavily in technology to monitor comments as well as human moderators. Next week, The Huffington Post will reach 100 million comments.
Aggregate the best content. Huffington also never desired that The Huffington Post be the only best source of content. She wanted to aggregate the best content from many sources and voices.
Produce the Best Reporting Once They Were Profitable. Last year, The Huffington Post became profitable. They began pairing seasoned journalists with new college graduates (Jefferson Journalists). This coupled the best of traditional journalism, such as fact checking and investigation, with the best of the new journalism tactics.
Huffington also shared some of her other thoughts about how online (and the news role) is changing. Trust, she said, makes a huge difference. While news used to be passive in that you’d sit on your sofa and just watch it, news today is more active — people want to share the news with each other. News today is real time, social and engaging.
People often ask why people will spend their free time blogging, updating their Facebook status and use other forms of social media — for free. Why would they do that? Huffington points out that no one ever seems to ask why people sit and watch bad TV shows, but people do it!
Huffington shared two megatrends she sees forming:
People want purpose beyond financial success. She sees a boom of cause marketing. People need to identify with a sense of purpose beyond self.
People have a need to unplug and recharge. Time disconnected gives individuals time to reconnect with themselves.
Finally, Huffington told the crowd to disregard naysayers. She shared a story about her second book, which was rejected by 36 publishers. If she’d stopped trying at 36, she would have missed her opportunity. Of all of the points today, I thought this one was by far the most poignant.