The Huffington Post has a certain glamour about it and is able to attract an “A” list of contributors. There is always something interesting on it, and its readership is apparently between 3 million and 8 million unique.
Now it is going to go local, with a launch in Chicago this summer, and at least a dozen local sites in all, per founder Arianna Huffington in an audio interview by The Guardian. Presumably, local will be another button on the site, along with “Politics,” “Media,” “Business,” “Living,” “Entertainment,” “Green” and “23/6” (a news summary).
Local, however, is just one of many new verticals. “Books,” “International” and “Sports” are also planned.
Huffington says the HuffPo is “an aspiring newspaper.” In Chicago, the initial launch will consist of a single page, with “Chicago news, Chicago bloggers, Chicago food, Chicago crime, everything.” After some experimentation, “we’ll have a template which we want to roll out.” Huffington is raising money now to do this. “We have been incredibly good at not expanding too fast,” she says.
John Wilpers, who knows a thing or two about building local media after editor stints with The Examiner and AOL, warns local media companies in his blog that “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.”
Who knows? Maybe the HuffPo will serve as a better foundation for compelling local discussions than the local newspaper or standalone hyperlocal sites. Being disciplined/elitist about what and who is interesting is the quality it brings to the table. Or maybe Huffington will raise a lot of money and buy Outside.in or Topix. But the latter site, with its small market orientation, doesn’t appeal to the influentials that she has focused on reaching.
My guess is the “local” part of it might be like an alternative newsweekly column and find some readers. Then we’ll see if Huffington wants to build up local sales or not (probably the latter).