Tips from inside HuffPo Live

23 January 2014

With 75 million visitors and around 2 billion pageviews a month, HuffPo has proven to be a successful news outlet. As Roy Sekoff spoke at the GEN Summit 2013, he offered a tour of the HuffPo Live office. Here are some tips from inside.

Launched in May 2005, HuffPost Live is an interactive news website that is revamping news television. An online news broadcasting network with 12 hours of live broadcasting daily, where people can be interviewed from the source and on the show. Online news based on viewer trafficking ranks Yahoo! as first place, and ties CNN and Huffington Post in second place. HuffPost Live has integrated tech and editing teams which Sekoff tells us makes it much more efficient. Using Sony Music as an example of a company that kept music and tech employees apart, and HuffPost is determined to combine technology in all aspects of the company with a ‘hyper efficient editor’ model. Purchased by AOL two years ago, Huffington Post would not have been able to launch HuffPost Live without this funding. According to Sekoff the mentality of HuffPost Live is to focus on the issues that arise rather than only focusing on the successes. Not to lose sight of what made a company successful in the first place, and enlisting the theories from The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.  

[To know more about live content, attend our session “Beyond Twitter, how to reshape your newsroom around live reporting and video sharing“ at the GEN Summit 2014 in Barcelona at 50% off]

HuffPost remains a relevant news source by integrating and adapting to social media, particularly through Facebook and Twitter. With 1600 articles published each day there is a significant amount of time and money spend on regulating around the 250 million comments it receives.  HuffPost goes to great lengths to create and maintain a ‘non-toxic’ atmosphere with a machine called Julia who filters and regulates unwanted comments on articles. Users have to authenticate via Facebook in order to comment, which is meant to filter out some of the bugs that might try and contaminate content. Social media has proven to be an excellent platform for content circulation for news content.  

Social, social, social

Research has shown that 40% of users search for articles and 30% of users find articles on social media or are linked to the articles. In the HuffPo experience consumers don’t tend to share all the content they search for, users only share content that shed them in a good light – Sekoff refers to this as people sharing ‘their better selves’. This has created a spike in stories with happier content allowing for more shareable stories. Focusing on the Wellness section of the Huffington Post and drawing traffic to the stories with more uplifting content has proven to be fruitful for the company. During the summer 2013, there was traffic of 8 million users to the Wellness section. That has risen to 20 million. The articles are circulated much more rapidly and frequently when they have social friendly headlines and content. With proper timing for articles, adapting news for social media networking can be very powerful to a news company when done correctly. Technology has allowed for sites to track users activity, seeing how much time the user spent on the article and how far down they scrolled allows for articles to be better suited for users interests and activities. The content is not driven by algorithms and remains in a newspaper layout for the front page of the website. Articles are intended to accomplish one to the three following: generate fiscal income, receive an award or educate their audience.  Sekoff’s belief is that it is “less about being talked at, and more about being talked with.”  

Twelve hours of social TV a day

HuffPost Live has had 10,000 people join on-air programs. With an average of 20 minutes spent when users visit the site, the HuffPost Live programmes draw in their audience and tend to keep users engaged for the length of the programme:  the nature of citizen journalism and citizen interaction on websites allows for conversations via comments. This can generate a new form of content, coming straight from the sources themselves. Huffington Post is participating in the “democratization” of media, going straight to the source and tell us that they are holding the journalistic standard of transparency and accuracy.  One advantage to an internet based news company is that any mistakes that arise can be fixed immediately and articles are updated as needed. A type of hybrid journalism, Huffington Post is realizing the benefits of the intensity of content and timing rather than instant speed. As Sekoff pointed out “we are all editors now,” with technology and internet-based news outlets the audience has the opportunity to be editors. This “prosumer” aspect to journalism, allows audiences to produce and consume content. This also allows for the audience to edit the news themselves and identify flaws or errors in content that can be mended instantly. The audiences are becoming much more adept at expressing their opinions and deciding who to trust with their news and why.  

Sekoff states that we live in a “data driven world, lacking narrative and overrun with data content.” The main issue with this is that “data touches the head, and narrative touches the heart”. For content with true substance there needs to be both aspects incorporated in the published pieces. HuffPost Live also have short VOD pieces that can be watched on smartphones. With 500 video clips a week and 58 producers, HuffPost Live is reinventing the video news forum. Offering live news content is important so that “the audience can be involved,” Sekoff feels very strongly that going straight to the citizens themselves is a valid way to retrieving news firsthand directly from the source.