Monday, 16 January 2012

Huffington Post UK is failing to live up to Arianna's promise

Its founder Arianna Huffington introducing last summer’s launch of Huffington Post UK – the first overseas arm of her hugely successful news and comment website – declared: “Our goal is to give our readers a one-stop shop for all the information they need to know -- whether we're reporting on it, curating it from the best sources around the world, or our bloggers are weighing in with their takes on it.”
Its biggest fan – I wager a tiny community – would have to admit HuffPost UK has disappointed in its short life.
Today Nick Denys, co-editor of the Platform 10 political blog writing for The Kernel, a new technology website, doesn’t pull punches in suggesting without swift action HuffPost UK looks headed for the “dead pool.”
“The over-riding impression, on browsing the site, is of stale mediocrity,” he writes.
He suggests alongside the site’s poor standard of managers, editorial staff, and bloggers, American arrogance is also to blame.
“Perhaps six years ago, when the American version was launched, such a model was innovative and pioneering, but the UK version has done nothing to advance public debate in Britain,” says Denys.

I hope HuffPost UK comes right. I signed up as a blogger in its first months and had three pieces published in swift succession - with next to no response.
I met the site’s leading lights late last year when they were the guests of a London Bloggers Meet-Up session in a Covent Garden pub - they came across dedicated to the cause.
In the Q & A I was told they were speeding up the time between submission and publication; it had been an unacceptable 36 hours for my articles. I can’t tell you if they’ve got this moderation-delay licked because I never felt inclined to add to my three posts.
The other concern was if you didn’t make it into a selected blog category, your visibility is limited. But even if you had pride of place, the suspicion is in the absence of reader figures, no one is out there reading you.

My lack of enthusiasm, however, was sealed by my experience as a reader rather contributor. I couldn’t see what HuffPost UK could offer that my iGoogle page couldn’t. Here I have in an easily navigable form swift access to what interests me.
For news I have BBC and Google websites; news analysis The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph; political comment the New Statesman and Guido Fawkes; lighter weight stuff the Daily Mail; and for pure show biz Perez Hilton. Most of these sites offer a wide range of informed bloggers and readers’ comments.
Why would I want to visit HuffPost UK? As Denys asks “What is it for?” Perhaps it is just early days and it needs time to bed in. We bloggers need the widest vista in which to shine.

I’m not really up to speed on Arianna Huffington’s role in the liberal wing of American politics. But on a personal level I’m much impressed by her continuing devotion to the memory of the late Bernard Levin, the incomparable author and critic with whom she shared a seven-year relationship.
“He wasn't just the big love of my life, he was a mentor as a writer and a role model as a thinker,” she has said of their time together.
Huffington left Levin and London for New York in 1980, because she had reached 30 and he was determined never to have children or marry. The rest is, as they say, history.

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