The Huffington Post UK: Yankee Go Home – And Take Me With You
THE Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington’s eponymous project, has launched in the UK. Will it work? It’s owned by AOL – so big corporate money is backing it. And it doesn’t pay all of its writers. Here’s what the experts say:
The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss:
Ultimately, at a time when news organisations are remodelling themselves as digital first – and the Guardian particularly – it will be the HuffPo’s business model and how it adapts to the UK market that is of most interest. Revenues have been modest but in the black since last year – to an estimated $60m this year. If there’s anything to be learned from the UK HuffPO, it will be the bottom line that’s the bottom line.
Kiss might soon be giving masterclasses in irony. As reported in the (free) London Evening Standard:
Savings are essential as the papers [Observer and Guardian] lost a similar sum in the year to March as they did 12 months earlier, falling £33 million into the red “in cash terms”.
Maybe getting hacks to write for free is the future? Ricky Gervais, Tony Blair, Kelly Osbourne and Sarah Brown have agreed to write for free. Well, they are rich with something to sell. The AOL corporate site reports:
Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and board member of Estee Lauder and The Economist Group, is the site’s Editor-at-Large.
Will she give us some perfume for free?
Kate Burns, the SVP for AOL Europe, sets the record stright – or tries to:
“If you look at the top-ten comScore news sites in the UK, all of them have offline entities. Our site will be the only independent and truly digital destination for the UK.”
Independent? It’s owned by AOL. Is independence defined as new, no dead tree press edition and owned by Americans?
Was Tim Rutten right?
The bulk of the site’s content is provided by commentators, who work for nothing other than the opportunity to champion causes or ideas to which they’re devoted. Most of the rest of the content is “aggregated” — which is to say stolen — from the newspapers and television networks that pay journalists to gather and edit the news.
Kate Brown takes a view on writing for free while, er, writing for free in the Huffington Post – “Writing for Free Doesn’t Have to Mean Betrayal”:
Writing for free is a grey area. Despite the ubiquity (and importance) of blogs and that many high profile sites trade content for prestige only, it’s often looked down upon if it makes up part of your career. When, as a newly-hatched post-grad, I joined one journalism forum, the stance was: “Don’t write unless you’re paid. It undermines you and it undermines journalism.”
So why write for free?
Free is why people write fanzines, update blogs and tweet. It’s pressure off, it’s the opportunity to practise something you enjoy and share it with people immediately. And particularly online, there’s a limited supply of people who will pay. My pitching skills are sufficiently atrocious that, if I were only to write for money outside my main job, I would probably forget how to hold a pencil within a year. I don’t want that, because I love writing and I need to do it.
What about the timing of the launch? Ingrid Lunden writes on PaidContent:
The launch of HuffPo UK has come with impeccable, if unplanned, timing.
Or as Toby Young puts it:
Poor Arianna Huffington. When she and her advisors picked today to launch the British version of the Huffington Post they couldn’t have known it would be eclipsed by the biggest media story of the year. This would have been a good day to bury bad news, but it’s not a good day to launch HuffPost UK.
What about the Americans coming over to the UK – is this about cultural imperialism?
Toby Young again:
The main problem is that it’s too obviously a minor offshoot of the American version, with not enough attention paid to anglicising it. The banner headline this morning (it’s subsequently been changed) was an American colloquialism: “The buck stops here.” This was above a picture of Rebekah Brooks so I’m sure most readers got the point, but still. Couldn’t the headline writer have come up with something more British-sounding?
There are also two examples of American English on the home page – and to add insult to injury, they’re both written by people who should know better. In Arianna’s editorial launching the UK edition, she says she justlerves our lil’ ol’ country because she went to “college” here. In fact, she went to Cambridge. Cambridge isn’t a “college”, it’s a collection of 31 colleges. The other, marginally less egregious example is provided by Tracey Ulman, another ex-pat. In a hagiographic piece about, yes, you’ve guessed it, Arianna Huffington, she refers to the fact that her glorious leader “dated” Bernard Levin when she lived in England. Don’t you mean “went out with”, Tracey?
Will it work? Well, it has already created a splash. And much of the commentariat who hate it work at tired news organs the HuffPo will rival. Their early message is Go Home Yankee – and if you can’t take me with you, make me worthy…
Image: (from left – right) Kelly Osbourne, Shami Chakrabarti, Richard Bacon, Arianna Huffington, Kate Burns, Alastair Campbell, Celia Walden and Jon Gaunt attend the launch event for The Huffington Post UK at The Millbank Tower London.