HERE SHE COMES.
Like Craig Newmark before her, Huffington Post creator Arianna Huffington plans to steal our lunch. In her case, she’s announced she is going to launch at least a dozen local sites, starting with Chicago this summer.
You could ask a stadium full of people if they had ever heard of YourStreet, Topix, BackFence or Outside.in, and you might hear a faint voice or two from the bleachers. You could FILL dozens of stadiums with people who have not only heard about the Huffington Post but have also been there. Like three to eight million people a month, depending on which measurement you believe.
Now Huffington says she’s coming after our most precious asset: our local readers.
(Listen to her comments during a Guardian seminar by clicking on the image below. She discusses her local play starting at minute 25:45 through 29:30. She returns to local at 35:37 through 36:08.)
It’s scary, or it damn well should be. Unlike Craig’s List, she’s telling us in advance that she’s coming, how and when (not where yet, but I wouldn’t wait to find out!).
With her clout and visibility, she may succeed at the aggregation game where others have failed or are struggling. She plans to grab YOUR content and the best local bloggers and citizen journalists — something we should have done long ago. (It’s not too late, but it’s ALMOST too late.)
And she won’t be blowing large amounts of investor money, either. One editor. One reporter. That’s it.
But add all the current and future local bloggers who will be attracted by the opportunity to have the address of: “HuffingtonPost/my name,” and she’ll have critical mass in one hell of a hurry. And those people will be buzzing about HuffPost’s local site rather than your newspaper and its website.
You’ve watched customers walk away from your newspaper’s classifieds to Craig’s List. Do you really think people will go to your paper first and then to her site when they can get it all at her site?
So, beat her to the punch. Now. Start lining up local bloggers today! Claim the turf before she does. After all, you’re local. You can take much better care of these local folks than she can. You still have more clout and much better brand recognition than she does. For now.
My experience at the Los Angeles Times, when I would ask local bloggers about appearing in the LA Times, would indicate that even for the Internet savvy folks, the old-fashioned media still has some magic. They were thrilled at the possibility.
But bringing high-quality local bloggers into your website isn’t enough. To really seal the deal, to really cement the relationship and both reward the blogger and attract more people to your site, you MUST publish their blogs (or excerpts) in your newspaper.
Your print product is a HUGE advantage you have over Arianna. She has no external promotional vehicle; you have what amounts to tens or even hundreds of thousands of daily promotional fliers for your bloggers and your website. Just do it.
Arianna is coming and if you’re not ready, she could join Craig on your enemies list, if you’ve still in the newspaper industry by then.
Here are some of the most chilling comments from her interview with Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger:
“We’re an aspiring newspaper. We’re a newspaper in the sense that we are covering all news…we’re not just a political blog, the way we began just covering politics, we’re covering everything. When I say ‘aspiring,’ I mean we keep adding to that. We’re expanding. In the next three months, we’re launching a books vertical then international and sports and we’re also launching local.
Starting with Chicago, it’s going to be just one page which is going to look like the Huffington Post but it will be all about Chicago: Chicago news, Chicago bloggers, Chicago food, Chicago crime, everything
Once we work out the kinks, we’ll have the template which we want to roll out, staring with a dozen other cities …
(Guardian editor Rusbridger asked what she meant by “covering”): By ‘covering,’ I mean three things: 1) aggregating news from all sorts of sources; 2) we now have a reporting team …
We’re about to do the third round of financing and a lot of the money we’re raising is going to go toward expanding our reporting team as well as to launch local and all the other things we’re planning …
Where is all this going? We’re going to have an editor. That’s how we start. It’s news aggregation and bloggers. We’re reaching out to many people in Chicago. We’re going to be blogging about what’s happening in Chicago. it’s a combination of those two elements: social community and blogging.
(And it will be) supplemented by our citizen journalism project …