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Arianna Huffington is an Entrepreneur to Admire

I am at the luncheon keynote of the Digital Media Mixer, and Arianna Huffington, entrepreneur extraordinaire and middle-aged blogger like me,  starts off with riff on Sarah Palin’s shoes.

I am at the luncheon keynote of the Digital Media Mixer, and Arianna
Huffington, entrepreneur extraordinaire and middle-aged blogger like
me,  starts off with riff on Sarah Palin’s shoes.

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Before you get to hear about her, don’t forget to sign up for the Third Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference 
on Nov. 19. We have put together an incredible program of both local
and out of town entrepreneurs. We steal $150 from you (the rich) for a
ticket, and hand it over to the
Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation  (the poor) in the form of skills training to help disadvantaged populations break out of low wage jobs. In exchange, we offer content that you would have to go to New York or Silicon Valley to hear. It’s a Robin Hood fundraising scheme.

Arianna, whose Huffington Post took the world by storm when it launched
in 2005,  goes on to talk about where she is now in the digital space
and where she is going. She points out the differences between this
presidential election compared to 2004: no YouTube, no HuffPo in 2004

She points out that Obama would have not been the Democratic nominee
without digital media; would not have defeated the Democratic royalty.

Obama beat the Clinton records for fundraising by using the Internet,
and then translated the viral to the street–a million people knocking
on doors.  She tells of meeting Chris Hughes, the young man who left
Facebook to run Obama’s digital campaign. She was stunned; he was 22.

Because of the Internet, Huffington says, Rovian politics is over. Karl
Rove believed that you could say anything in a campaign, and it could
never be proven false. But Rove had never met  bloggers.  Rumors can
spread in blogs, but they will be proven false.
(It’s like Robert Scoble  always says: if something appears online and it isn’t corrected in 24 hours, it is probably true.)
There could not be Swiftboating or McCain’s black illegitimate child
rumors today. They would be corrected, because bloggers have
obsessive-compulsive disorder; they stick with a story until they prove
the rumors false. And that is the key to the Internet success.

As a blogger, Arianaa gets to sit on panels at conferences with very
interesting people, most of them younger than she is. She loves them.
Will.i.am, a singer with the group Black Eyed Peas once told her:  “If
you are consuming old media, you are consuming it on your couch; if you
are consuming new media, you are consuming it on your horse.” You are
active, and interactive.

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How and why did the HuffPo start? Arianna always wanted to be a news aggregator with a definite point of view
She says it doesn’t mean being partisan. It does mean being about facts, reality and truth.

Her passion was to have a collective blog, and bring interesting people
to the online conversation who were not in it right now, either because
they were too old or too busy. The first person she asked was the late
historian Arthur Schlesinger. She taught him to blog. He told her he
didn’t use a computer.(She didn’t care if he sent it by pidgeon.) He
typed his blog and faxed it to her.
Her editors take faxes, take dictation. Many famous people dictate their blogs.

From its beginnings in 2005, Huffington Post 
now has over 2500 bloggers, 2000 of them post themselves and the others
use the editors..Last month, HuffPo had a million comments, so Arianna
employs 30 comment moderators, who pre-moderate comments in real time.
There is no technology to replace this yet, she says, and she wants  a
civil environment on HuffPo in which to blog. On HuffPo, you are not
going to be called names by trolls

Why did she start it? She saw when Trent Lott was forced to resign by
bloggers how powerful they were, and that’s when she started being
interested in blogging.

Now she is opening up new verticals. All the verticals attract new
readers.  Someone will read a blog by Jamie Lee Curtis, and then come
back, or not. Of 120,000,000 unique visitors a month. 72% of traffic
does not come back. But the ones that do are usually faithful.

50% of  the site’s traffic does not come from politics. Their goal is
to keep  shifting and keep introducing new initiatives, like local
pages and big news pages. She’s also moving more toward a social
networking platform.

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To safeguard for accuracy, there are roundrules for HuffPo: if you have
a mistake in your blog, you have 24 hours to correct it or your
password is withdrawn. She wants fact-based writing. No conspiracy
theorists.

In the hybrid future shared by digital media and print, Arianna sees a
new form of journalism emerging: Fact-based, reality based, but not
necessarily committed to taking both sides of an issue like the MSM
does. She believes the concept of “objective journalism,” where you
show both sides of the issue, is dead.  The truth is not in the middle.
We should not be debating evolution or whether the earth is flat. There
are such things as facts. 🙂

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About the author

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998

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