November 24, 2017

Spotlight: Huffington Post

What to make of the Huffington Post? It’s a big, brawling, sometimes lewd, sometimes thoughtful online mega-city that continues to grow. The web analytics firm Alexa currently ranks it 20th in traffic in the U.S. – with the only news site above it being CNN.com at 19. In his lengthy 2012 Columbia Journalism Review cover story, Michael Shapiro chronicles the site’s conception, birth, and growth in the preceding seven years, noting its approach to building communities and enticing contributors.

It wasn’t by accident that HuffPo became the go-to place for college presidents’ opinion pieces. As it was building out its communities (or “verticals”) in 2011, the site proactively recruited college presidents as contributors.

According to a highly-placed HuffPo editor who spoke off the record, “I adopted a spreadsheet mentality,” contacting every president of a nonprofit college or university in the country. Many presidents were flattered to be asked, and not only contributed pieces but touted their participation in news releases and TV interviews.

Over the years, some of those early adopters dropped out and other presidents have signed up. Currently, the editor says, around 400 college presidents are regular contributors – or, technically, bloggers. Still, he says, they would welcome more participation by presidents.

Auditioning for a contributor slot is easy, he notes: “A head shot, a short bio, and a sample essay” for their consideration. (Use this online form to submit an op-ed/blog of up to 1,000 words for consideration.)

In recent years the site has gained respectability, even winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Still, for some higher education folks, the HuffPo environment doesn’t feel quite right. Positioning a president’s thoughtful comments on, say, campus sexual assaults adjacent to a right-column link to a story on some actress’s sex life may be a bit disconcerting for some presidents. It can be a bit like trying to give a scholarly lecture on a carnival midway.

 

The Huffington Post, nine years on,” Capital, May 8, 2014.  Updating Michael Shapiro’s CJR feature referenced above, this article offers valuable insights into the growing pains of HuffPo in 2013-14.

 Getting Published In The Huffington Post, Feb. 5, 2015, with useful info from a blogger on her success

Huffington Post Masthead, with detailed organizational information (but, sorry, not contact info)

 

Note:  Spotlight pages contain excerpts from Sept. 17, 2014, white paper on op-ed venues.