Huffington Post's streaming channel format incorporates Google hangouts, reporting staff and a team of young hosts.
Arianna Huffington launched her latest eponymous news venture on Monday, a breezy, live-streamed talk channel called HuffPost Live.
The Huffington Post has hired some 100 staff to work behind and in front of the scenes for HuffPost Live, but its first viewers were treated to Huffington herself.
In an occasionally stilted opening segment, Huffington promised the new venture would prove as groundbreaking as her website, which quickly grew to threaten more established news organisations.
“Seven years ago HuffPost disrupted the way people engage with news,” she said. “And now with HuffPost Live, you’re invited to be part of a different kind of conversation, whoever you are, wherever you are.”
It was not Huffington’s first shot at TV-style presenting. In the 1970s she was host of Saturday Night at the Mill, a lightweight BBC talk show broadcast from Birmingham in the UK. She lasted for 12 episodes before being dropped.
She will hope for more success with her new channel, which will be live for 12 hours a day, five days a week, with segments replayed through the night and over weekends. A team of 10 bright young hosts have been hired, including Abby Huntsman, daughter of former contender for the Republican nomination Jon Huntsman, and former al-Jazeera English co-host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.
It was Shihab-Eldin who was the first to demonstrate the format, launching into a discussion of Paul Ryan’s merits as vice-president with five people in a Google hangout. One of the five was the Huffington Post’s political correspondent Sam Stein. HuffPost Live expected to make full use of its reporting team as well as online community.
Huffington promised the new venture would take the “best of the old” and add its own twist. The first few hours of live streams showed plenty that was borrowed from traditional TV talk formats, such as a newsdesk, a softer sofa area and teleprompters; but the feel was more warm and relaxed, with shots of the studio area being re-set between segments and little concern for the occasional technological tangle with Skype.
Although the live aspect of HuffPost Live has attracted much attention, the channel’s president, Roy Sekoff, said in an interview last week that the format is designed for the live streams to be repurposed easily as on-demand segments.
“In order to join us live, we have to be live. [But] the other part of our business is very much on video on-demand,” Sekoff told Peter Kafka at All Things D.
“People want premium video content. How can you create a tremendous amount of video content at scale? [This] is actually a very cost-effective way. That’s one of the reasons we’re doing the 12 hours.
“We want to be there when things are happening [and] we want to be able to churn out material. Every time we do a live segment, we’re clipping. We’re taking the best things that come up, and we’re embedding them in HuffPost stories.”
Sekoff was alongside Huffington on the sofa when HuffPost Live launched on Monday morning, describing the channel as “a platform for engagement”, and saying the team had wanted to create the “most social video experience possible”.
One of the bits of HuffPost Live much discussed on Monday was its “green room”, where resources are provided for upcoming segments on the channel. Viewers ican view reading material ahead of a forthcoming dscussion and then apply to “join this segment” and discuss issues live with hosts and other community members.
“We’re at this great seismic moment where we’re shifting just from presentation to participation,” Sekoff said on Monday morning. “And I think that’s the key for us, is that people from all around the world is that they don’t just want to be talked at, they want to be talked with.”
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