What The Huffington Post does extremely well is select and highlight its stories to appeal to its audience. Even more important than the whiff of progressive politics is the feeling that there is active human intelligence making choices.
And the result is a far more satisfying news product than a Google News offers.
Arianna Huffington may be the frontwoman and her site’s chief celebrity blogger. But the real stars of The Huffington Post, in the new iteration especially, are the anonymous editors who put the package together. You know, like at a real newspaper.
Steve Johnson’s one of the sharpest media critics out there. He doesn’t fall back on stupid clichés to explain things and he came up with one of my favorite lines for responding to clueless people who complain about “the media,” which is that “it’s about as savvy as sneering at ‘vehicles’ when your real beef is with the dump truck that ran over your dog.” He and Rosenbloom (who when he writes about hockey is a goddamn poet) are the reasons we still get the Trib.
I was having this conversation with an editor friend a while back, about the whole Digital Dilemma, and Why We’re Losing Readers, and the usual newspaper complaints. And really, it’s very simple. People read newspapers because newspapers have information they want. If the newspaper no longer has anything they want, they’ll go elsewhere for the information.
(Or they’ll go elsewhere if you force them, by delivering the paper badly or never letting them know what might be in it for them if they’d pick it up, but we’re talking about content at the moment. Marketing and distribution are later.)
If there’s info and commentary and discussion that is entertaining, informative and worthwhile in a newspaper people will go to a newspaper. If it’s online, they’ll go online. A web site is not instant profit, nor is a paper instant loss. They’re delivery systems, and if what you’re delivering is good enough, people will get it any way they have to. But if it sucks, people would just as soon not bother with picking up the pile of plastic-wrapped dumbassery, whining, Krauthammer re-runs and sudden discovery that there’s crime in the city off their porches, thank you very much.