The New News Paradigm: Q&A With HuffPost Live's Roy Sekoff

I started out in the industry as a focus group moderator, learning very quickly that the quality of a group’s recruiting and management two vitally important factors to assure usable insights. So I was intrigued when I was invited to interview Roy Sekoff,president of the newly launched HuffPost Live.

Roy Sekoff has an impressive pedigree. Although he started out his career with the hope of becoming a screenwriter and director, he found his way via Michael Moore’s “TV Nation” to news reportage. Roy is the founding editor of the Huffington Post and the president and co-creator of HuffPost Live.

HuffPost Live is a new site from Huffington Post / AOL that offers a live stream of news and feature stories, along with real-time viewer commentary throughout the day. On the one hand, it could be considered a fascinating new entrant into the scrappy world of news reporting. On the other hand, it could be a platform for the world’s largest focus group.

The intent of HuffPost Live is not to create a new brand. It is an extension of the Huffington Post -- a video strategy with 12 hours of live programming every day, edited into clips that are featured  throughout the HP verticals. Roy speaks of “the moment” in media where people do not want to be talked at. They would rather be engaged in a dialogue where they can respond, ideally in real time.



There are five videos in my interview with Roy, which span the launch of HuffPost Live to a larger global discussion of the role of news today, the issue of news objectivity and authenticity, the idea of news as a focus group and a look forward to the next couple of years as well as the upcoming election.:

Below is a short excerpt of the interview. Click here for the complete version.

CW: What is the editorial vision of HuffPost Live?

RS: We don’t have an agenda, other than being interesting and talking about things that we think are important. By that I mean we are not algorithmically driven – our programming is not based on what is the most popular and what we think is going to do the best on search.

There are stories that we are committed to covering. It’s in our DNA - this is the way it has always been at HuffPost. We know that if we do a story on Afghanistan, it’s not necessarily going to be the biggest online draw. But we think it is important to cover it. We will continue to cover it as long as it is in the news.

We are very committed to talking about jobs and poverty. For instance, we just did our Shadow Conventions 2012, where we hosted in-depth discussions about three issues that we didn’t think either of the two parties were talking about in any meaningful way -- poverty in america, the failed drug war and the corrupting influence of money on our politics. And it turned out that our community was very passionate about these topics as well. We received incredible levels of engagement – the time spent onsite really spiked up, way above the industry average.

CW: If you could identify the most important attribute for a brand – or for a candidate -- based on what your community would value, what would it be?

RS: I’d say authenticity. It’s the oldest joke in politics, “It’s all about sincerity… and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Since authenticity is what is valued online -- and particularly in social media -- that is what people and brands are striving for.  But it is not easy to achieve. It is not easy to come across as authentic – letting people see who you really are, while still delivering the facts and information they need. But this is what we strive to do in our reportage and with our hosts.

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