Yahoo! Adds Hostess Huffington's A-List To News Shuffle
Author and talking head Arianna Huffington said Yahoo! has had its eye on her high-wattage blog/news site since it launched on May 9.
"I got a call a from Terry Semel--who's a friend of mine--the day we launched, actually, talking about Yahoo!'s interest in exciting and original content," Huffington recalled.
The move comes as industry watchers continue to speculate about Yahoo!'s intentions as a media content player. For starters, Yahoo!'s head and former Warner Bros. co-chair, Terry Semel, appointed former ABC executive Lloyd Braun to lead the Yahoo! Media Group, and soon after announced plans to relocate the Group to Santa Monica, California. Yahoo! also struck a recent deal with the JibJab video creators.
Scott Moore, Yahoo! Media's newly appointed vice president of content operations, described his company's aspirations in a discussion with Huffington posted on her site: "Yahoo! today is literally at the intersection of Silicon Valley techno-culture and Hollywood media ... Both camps are simultaneously intrigued and repelled. I expect we'll produce beautiful children eventually, but the mating rituals can be awkward."
But are JibJab videos and Huffington's VIP musings what Yahoo! executives have in mind when they think original content? "Did I mention that I've only been at Yahoo! for eight weeks?" Moore joked in a telephone interview with OnlineMediaDaily. "No, I think it's a start, and anybody who's paying attention knows that blogs--particularly Arianna's--are an interesting place to be right now."
The Huffington post certainly has no shortage of stand-out contributors: David Mamet, Vernon Jordan, Arthur Schlesinger, and Diane Keaton. Huffington described the blog as the ideal venue for influential people who want to chime in on an issue without having to "put on makeup and go over to the nearest television studio."
So far, the site appears to be having an impact on popular discourse. Norman Mailer recently began a post: "I'm beginning to see why one would want to write a blog. At present, I have a few thoughts I can certainly not prove, but..."
The site has had its share of scoops, as well. Huffington herself first reported late last week that Vice President Dick Cheney received emergency medical care Friday in the cardiac unit of a Colorado hospital, although the severity of Cheney's condition has yet to be confirmed.
But despite Yahoo!'s official vote of confidence, Huffington's site has yet to translate its bloggers' cachet into exceptional traffic numbers. While Nielsen//NetRatings said the site drew a respectable 702,000 unique visits during its first month of operation, more established blogs like Daily Kos and Instapundit regularly rack up over 1 million visitors each month. And when "Huffingtonpost" is entered into Google--now a standard litmus test for cultural influence--the search engine asks: "Did you mean: Washington post."
The postings, which Huffington and her staff choose, will appear primarily in the opinion section of Yahoo! News, although News editors may select stories to appear on Yahoo! News entertainment pages.
Moore--who was poached from rival MSN, where he served as general manager of its programming group--spoke poorly of MSN's own attempt to ride the blogosphere's wave of popularity by recruiting paid bloggers to comment on a number of its sites, which was reported last week by OnlineMediaDaily.
"I don't think that's the right approach," said Moore. "The best of the blogosphere is led by independent-minded people, not people who are going to come in and act like regular employees."
MSN did not comment.
Tribune Media Services, for which Huffington writes a regular column, recently began syndicating a "best-of" of the Huffington Post, Huffington confirmed.