Ian Burrell: Huffington has to find the right formula to post a success in the UK

Arianna Huffington will personally launch the UK version of her American blog-based news website, The Huffington Post, next week. For the irrepressible Athens-born former Cambridge University student and BBC presenter, this is a crucial return to the country she once called home.

For thesake of AOL, the media giant which bought the site for $315m in February, the project cannot fail. The UK launch is The Huffington Post’s first venture outside North America and comes ahead of a roll-out in Europe, Latin America, Australia and India.

By any standards, the HuffPo – as it isknown to its dedicated followers – has been a great success since its launch six years ago. Seen as a refuge from the right-wing leanings of the American television networks, it has grown into oneof the biggest news websites in the world, with 10,000 bloggers using it as their platform alongside a team of paid staff writers. Ahead of its UK launch, TheHuffington Postalready attracts 1.2 million monthly users from these shores.

Yet despite Huffington’s determination and the might of AOL, the HuffPo is not guaranteed a place at the top table of British media. “People will be distrustful of The Huffington Post’s motives,” warns Paul Bradshaw, professor of online journalism at City University in London, referring to its new relationship with AOL.

Embraced at its launch by users who wanted to change the face of the American news media, the site is arguably now part of the establishment. “It’s going to be hard for The Huffington Post to communicate what they stand for,” says Bradshaw, who is not inclined to blog for the site. “In the UK they are known as the site that sold to AOL. In the US they might have been known as the site that offered an alternative voice but there’s a different media landscape over here.”

Since the HuffPo launched in the US in 2005, the UK blogosphere has matured. Sunny Hundal, founder of the Liberal Conspiracy blog site, says most of Britain’s most successful bloggers were signed up elsewhere. “They are having trouble recruiting bloggers,” he says. “You might blog for The Huffington Post if you could not get anything else but all the really good bloggers already have paying gigs.”

HuffPo UK faces stiff competition from established UK media brands, says Rachel McAthy, news editor of Journalism.co.uk. Hollywood news is increasingly supplied by the rapidly expanding Mail Online, and HuffPo bloggers must fight for attention with The Guardian’s popular Comment Is Free site, where contributors are paid.

But James Brown of the British blog site Sabotage Times believes the pool of undiscovered writing talent is still deep. “There’s a huge community of quality writers out there and they offer a really credible, passionate and informed voice on a whole host of different topics,” he says. According to Chris Wimpress, a former BBC journalist who has been hired as Huffington Post UK politics editor, more than 100 bloggers were signed up a month before launch. But quality will be as important as quantity. “They will need some new ideas, some really inspired appointments, and to discover some talent,” says Brian Cathcart, who teaches journalism at Kingston University. “Itdoesn’tseem that the existing model in the US would offer us anything terribly exciting and new over here.”

Cathcart says he remembers Ms Huffington as a presenter of Saturday Night at the Mill from BBC Birmingham and does not necessarily see her as taking a liberal position in the UK media.

“Some of us remember her in ski boots walking out with Tory backbenchers – back then, we all understood her to be right wing,” he says. “She has had huge success, has big backing from her business partners, and God knows she can talk. She has the capacity to make some impact but it’s the content that will make the difference.”

Ms Huffington is taking a direct interest in the appointment of key bloggers, and sources close to the project said she would be announcing “quite a few big names”. AOL will support HuffPo UK with content from its British sites, such as the fashion-led MyDaily, the showbiz-based Eleven, and the men’s site Asylum. The editor-in-chief of these sites, Carla Bevan, former online editor of Marie Claire, will take a similar role at HuffPoUK.Michael Rundle has moved from Asylum to become assistant editor on the new project.

Despite the hurdles, Stewart Easterbrook, CEO of Starcom MediaVest UK, believes HuffPo UK will prevail. The American site’s UK audience is attractive to advertisers with 70 per cent ABC1s, 50 per cent 16-34s and 42 per cent earning more than £50,000 a year. Heexpects the UK site to feature more news and less politics on its home page because British media (including the BBC) offer less space in the political middle ground. “In the US the media is more politically polarised – in the UK, that’s less of a USP,” he says. Lifestyle content will need to be UKoriented in order to give a local feel alongside its already popular Hollywood and Silicon Valley news.

Ms Huffington touches down in London nextweek knowing her reputation depends on this new website taking off. As one source said: “It needs to fly.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there