It is the biggest blog in the world by far. In most months, three of the 4 biggest blogs on the internet that occupy 2nd through 4th place based on audience size tend to be some sequence of Mashable, Business Insider, and TMZ. Each of these sites get unique visitors somewhere in the 30 to 50 million range. Huffington Post stands alone at the top. Average month: over 100 million readers.
The Huffington Post makes for an ultimate exploration on the subject of creating and hosting conversation because, it basically invented this whole concept as it applies to the internet. We’ve explored in this past month some of the different mediums, platforms, and brands in the world that have famously pioneered their own subjects of societal conversations. We saw that branded conferences like TED and the WEF belong as only one type of medium within this context, next to product companies like Guinness and Michelin, and one-off events that have gone down as legendary moments in history. We looked at Mashable at the start of this year, as a specific exploration on how it created its own niche called social media and launched that into the stratosphere over this first decade of its founding. The Huffington Post, founded just 2 months apart from Mashable but on a completely different background, began as a political blog with the intention of being a left wing counterpart to the Drudge Report. HuffPost has since then with Arianna’s revolutionary approach to journalism, proven to be the leading pioneer in the science of blogging itself.
Ten years ago, in addition to already being a prolific writer and political activist, Arianna Huffington was also famously one of the most well connected socialites in the country. She was born Arianna Stassinopoulos, and got her later name Huffington from her marriage to a congressman named Michael Huffington. Arianna was born in Greece, educated in England, and lived much of her younger adult life as a New Yorker. She’s always maintained a relatively high profile life: author of multiple bestsellers, intensely involved in her husband’s political career, partying with the New York socialites like Barbara Walters and Larry David (keep in mind this was well before our time…). When Kenneth Lerer and Jonah Peretti (both ended up being co-founders of HuffPo along with Arianna, then both moved on to a new venture that became Buzzfeed) approached Arianna about doing a political news website, it wasn’t just because Arianna had proven herself to be politically ambitious and a successful writer; it was in fact mostly because she had a unique talent for maintaining such a famously large network of friends.
That network became the initial concept of The Huffington Post: get people to contribute content to the blog, free of charge, in exchange for access to this concept of a “conversation” that was fostering in the Huffington network. While usual website operations like SEO and original contents were also indeed part of the HuffPo business model, most of what set this blog apart from anything else on the internet at the time was its ability to aggregate so many voices from so many sources, and with many of these voices being celebrity voices, ranging from Alec Baldwin to Robert Reich, all of whom were Arianna’s friends.
As with most revolutionary products though, the Huffington Post was met with some intense criticism in its early days. People considered it too sensationalist, too scattered in subject, too unethical in its methods of aggregation, and just overall a blasphemy against quality journalism. But by being all of these things and thriving for it, The Huffington Post has created over this past decade the entire mindset that the world has nowadays about what online contents should be like: effortlessly sharable, seamlessly interactive, easily consumable. It was and is the Web 2.0 of journalism. For the first time in journalism history, reader comments were as much a part of the content as the news stories themselves. Loyal commentators were rewarded with editorial rights. Bloggers from anywhere on the internet could submit their contents and, at least in the earlier years, a great ratio of them got featured. The Huffington Post created a community where the world’s people conversed about the world’s issues. It is today the gold standard of blogging, and the pioneer of turning the internet into the new medium of the world’s conversations.
See you at the next exploration!