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Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau defended the role of the site in journalism and said it is helping to herald in “a golden age of journalism” that has more content and audience participation than ever before.

Speaking at IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Carlsbad, California, Hippeau noted that HuffPo is publishing 500 pieces of content a day, compared with the 100 pieces published by The New York Times. Each piece is curated constantly with the help of the site’s “hyper-efficient editor.” And it publishes 2 million comments a month.

Much of the content comes from newspapers and other media. But Hippeau argues, “I did not kill newspapers,” echoing the five-word acceptance speech of a Webbie award by site founder Arianna Huffington last fall. Rather, he says the site brings new users to newspaper sites by links, like Google.

In fact, he contends that newspaper sites are actually doing pretty well. It is the traditional print business that is hurting. Basically, it is a coincidence that “our business is soaring while circulation at newspapers is declining.”

“If I was starting a news business today, the last thing I’d do is hire a team of traditional journalists and buy a printing press,” he says.

Hippeau also contends that the site’s success in boosting usage is based largely on successful verticalization. While the site boomed during the Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama campaign, it is now only dependent on politics for 20 percent to 25 percent of its traffic. The site, in fact, has just launched its 13th vertical section: colleges. The section enables students to contribute campus-by-campus news for 50+ colleges.

The site also has four local editions (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Denver) and has also recently launched a sports site, which now accounts for 10 percent of its traffic. The timing was fortuitous as the launch occurred around the Tiger Woods scandals three months ago. “It is the gift that keeps on giving,” he says.

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