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Arianna Huffington On Blogging, The 2008 Race, Her Book, Her Business

Political pundit and online media entrepreneur Arianna Huffington took some e-mail questions last week to talk about politics and her business, The Huffington Post, which is nearly two years old and drew 1.1 million unique visitors in February, according to estimates by Nielsen//NetRatings. In the works: the first-ever online presidential debate partnering with Yahoo! and Slate, and moderated by Charlie Rose.

Whose online publishing business do you admire the most?

They're not all publishing, but obviously, companies like Google, Apple, YouTube, MySpace, and Flickr are making a powerful connection with consumers. And they continue to innovate and think outside the box.

What are the publishing goals for Huffington Post in 2007?

We're looking to build on what we're doing by adding more video, more original reporting, more investigative pieces, more content directed towards women, and more satiric content.

We'll be broadening our editorial scope to include sections on Business, Technology, Entertainment, and Lifestyles (religion, food, fashion, relationships, etc). We're also adding a host of technical features that will allow the HuffPost community to be even more involved with the site including Huffit, which is a new Community Powered News tool that allows the HuffPost community to become virtual news editors.

Readers can huff (vote for) news anywhere on the Web that they think should get more attention and the most huffed or voted for news appears on the front of the Huffington Post.

What has been the most surprising thing about running a consumer-generated publishing model?

We've had blog posts that generated several hundred of comments -- and news stories that generated over a thousand. And the great thing is watching as these comments take on a life of their own, as our community of commenters begins responding to each other. It really does become conversation.

Tell us about your book Fearless and your premise about Fearlessness. Is it possible to tie the theme into the 2008 presidential election?

The vast majority of those on the political scene are driven by fear -- the fear of saying the wrong thing (wouldn't want to give the other side ammo for the inevitable attack ad), the fear of offending someone (anyone!), the fear of going out on a limb, and, above all, the fear of losing.

As a result, we get a seemingly endless lineup of walking-on-eggshell candidates who, with each new election cycle, become a little more wrinkle-free, a little more foible-free, a good bit less interesting -- and considerably more idea free. It's why we have so many candidates who say the right thing but then turn around and vote their fears instead of their principles. They are so programmed to avoid the pitfalls of actually standing for something, we might as well have robots running.

So this book is about building a foundation of personal fearlessness, so that all of us -- would be leaders and voters alike -- are fortified to stand strong behind our principles.

The key to building a fearless life is the understanding that fearlessness is not absence of fear but rather the mastery of fear -- doing what you want to do and saying what you want to say even while you are afraid.

What are your thoughts on the crowded field of contenders throwing their hats into the 2008 race? Obama? Hillary?

One of Obama's most appealing attributes is his willingness to address perceived liabilities head-on (apply directly to forehead) and to turn political negatives into attributes.

You look at Hillary and you see fear oozing from her every pore. Fear of losing. Fear of getting so close to the ultimate prize and blowing it. That's what's driving her. Everything she does or says is so studied and measured, I bet she sometimes has a hard time recognizing herself.

Since the publication of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore has been on a tear. One might argue the man has more influence now in public life as a private citizen. What's your take? Will we see him back in the ring?

I think he's considering it very seriously. And if he does choose to run, I think he'll be a much stronger candidate than he was before. Failure can be good for the soul.

What have you learned about the blogging business and your own blogging habits in the nearly two years since you've been running the HuffPo?

I learned that you're more intimate when you're writing a blog than when you're writing a column, let alone a book: the conversational nature of it; the way that it draws people in and includes them in the dialogue. You may set out to write about politics but in the end, you write about yourself; about the things you care about beyond politics. And this creates a close bond between blogger and audience.

Describe a recent business day.

Check the site, surf the Web, hop on the 24/7 news cycle. Phone call, phone call, phone call. Starbucks. Editorial meeting. Phone call, phone call. Business meeting. Write a blog. Conference call. Another conference call. Put out a fire. Put out another fire. More fire dousing. Phone call. Lunch at my desk. Repeat throughout the day.

Have Hollywood producers ever approached you to produce "Arianna: The Movie" or a play?

I'm too busy working on Arianna: the Life.

Arianna Huffington delivers the opening keynote today at OMMA Hollywood.

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