In a few days time, an event takes place that marks another evolutionary milestone for the mainstream media – the launch of The Huffington Post UK edition on July 6.
The Huffington Post is a US news website and content aggregating blog founded in 2005 by Arianna Huffington and others. With origins as a liberal (in the American sense) political blog, it’s grown to embrace a wide and deep range of topics to cover, just like major mainstream media do. According to Alexa, it is the 26th highest-ranked website in the US. It gets over 36 millions page views a month – that’s more than The New York Times – and over a million comments. Key to its broad reach is a core group of journalists and contributors including American politicians and celebrities, plus a huge number of unpaid bloggers (over 9,000 in the US).
So what’s my interest in all this? Well, apart from being a reader of the Huffington Post (mostly tech and business content, not so much the politics), I’m going to be writing blog posts for the new UK edition. I’ll be joining bloggers that number “well into three figures” who are lined up to contribute, according to Chris Wimpress, political editor.
The business model for bloggers will be the same as in the US – you post as much or as little as you want, you own all rights to your content, and you don’t get paid. It’s very clear in the terms and conditions I’ve agreed to as will have every other blogger, and I’m perfectly ok with that.
So what’s in it for me? To a great extent, I see it as being part of a grand experiment, contributing my opinion and commentary on topics that interest me and that will be published in an online medium that has huge scale and reach. It offers an opportunity for such opinion and commentary to reach many people who, frankly, would be unlikely to visit my blog.
It also means that I’ll be writing for a mainstream medium. That traditionally means you need to be a journalist, which I’m not. I don’t know yet who any of the other bloggers are who’ll be writing for the UK edition, but my guess is that a majority will not be journalists.
How disruptive will this structure be in the overall scheme of things for the media in the UK? Will it lower or even demolish barriers to entry for anyone who wants to create and contribute content for other mainstream media? What will it do for the pay-for-access-to-content models such as that in place by News International’s Times and coming soon from other media groups, eg, the Telegraph? And what will the ‘journalism quotient’ add to the overall picture where some commentators don’t seem too impressed with what they’re seeing at the moment?
I suspect it will be hugely disruptive over time, assuming AOL don’t change the Huffington Post’s model and start a pay-for-content model themselves (and what would that do to the unpaid blogger relationship?).
But that’s all in the future and time will tell what actually happens. Meanwhile, I’ve got my user name and log in details, I’ve checked in to the Movable Type-powered site and reviewed things, so I’m largely ready to put finger to keyboard and write my first post. I plan to do that in time for the UK launch on July 6. Then, once a week. Depending on what I write, I may cross-post some of that content here.
Looking forward to being part of an interesting adventure.