The platform, which hosted more than 100,000 bloggers during its lifespan, predated social-media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr and offered an outlet for unknown writers to make their voices heard.
In a post on the site, HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen stated: “In a time before the ubiquity of social media, the HuffPost platform was a public square where Americans of all walks of life could have a voice on matters both political and personal.”
However, this also meant the content had a reputation of being unreliable in quality and accuracy. And the publication’s new strategy seems to be an antidote to that.
Two new sections replace the Contributors Platform, HuffPost Opinion and HuffPost Personal.
The Opinion section hosts regular columnists and guest writers handpicked by Huffington Post editors. According to the post, the columnists’ bylines will appear “across the site, so that you will come to recognize a set of smart, reliable voices you can come back to again and again.”
HuffPostPersonal offers a variety of content, including essays written by guest writers and features, Q&As and interviews by HuffPost reporters. Topics the editors hope to cover include identity, relationships, family and “stories about unique life experiences.”
The Huffington Post is no stranger to great journalism. The site won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for its series on wounded veterans and their families. By tightening its contributor network, the publication could be indicating they’re making room for quality over quantity.
Over the past few years, outlets have begun to see a positive revenue stream in subscription services. Look at The New York Times or The Washington Post. Slate has recorded great results from its membership service. The Huffington Post’s latest move could be a step in that same direction.
According to Joe Lazauskas, head of content strategy at Contently and author of the upcoming book "The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void and Make People Love You," media brands that understand the importance of connecting with their audience become the most successful.
“[The HuffPost’s announcement] is a signal they get the message that it isn’t about putting out as much content as possible, but about focusing on high-quality stories,” Lazauskas tells Publishing Insider. When a brand focuses on quality, they’re saying, “ 'You know when you read us, it’ll be good.’ Rather than pivoting to video or interactive as so many outlets are doing, the key it to pivot to audiences.”
The site hasn’t mentioned a move toward a paid subscription service, however, as Lazauskas notes, there’s a lot of hunger for liberal news and reporting right now. “If they’re able to put together an offering that’s worth paying for, that’s obviously a great revenue stream,” he says.
With the arbitrary nature of digital advertising and search traffic left to the whims of giants like Google, a move to a reader-based system could prove profitable and beneficial to good journalism.