Adriana Huffington elevated blogging to new level in 2005 when she co-founded the Huffington Post with former AOL executive Ken Lerer. The Huffington Post is an online publication that is part news aggregator and part blog platform (further blurring the line between personal journaling and professional journalism). The Huffington Post model was unique (and some say damaging to the paid journalism profession) because it offered bloggers from all walks of life an opportunity to get their thoughts out into cyberspace, for free. As a news aggregator, the Huffington Post offers readers news from around the world organized into topical sections called “verticals,” such as News, Political, Life & Style, Tech & Style, and Healthy Living. Contributing bloggers have their own blog space, some of which are featured in relevant verticals. Featured blogs may appear on the front page of a vertical for a day to a week, depending on a rage of factors including editor preference. Huffington Post executives claim that most bloggers have no problem contributing stories for free. As evidence, the publication executives point out the number of people expressing an interest in blogging for their publication. There has been ongoing criticism, particularly among some professional writers including one who filed a lawsuit against the Huffington Post in 2011 claiming that free blogging was synonymous to “slavery.” In response, Ariana Huffington posted the following statement (in part):
“Bottom line: The vast majority of our bloggers are thrilled to contribute—and we’re thrilled to have them.” People want to be involved—not passively, but actively participating. No more sitting on couches staring at TVs. People want to express themselves—blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, photo editing, video posting, music creation. New technologies have made this possible. It’s funny, though, that the people who used to complain about why someone would sit and watch TV all day are the same people who don’t understand why being part of
the discussion is of interest either. And—the best part, it’s free. Yet, they don’t understand why people want to ‘give it away’.
Arianna’s position regarding providing bloggers a voice on an international platform is underscored by reports that the Huffington Post now boasts over 82 million unique users per month, larger than any other online news source.
Blogging not only is important in the new media landscape but for spawning a wide range of user-generated Internet content. The effect has been transformational on the mass media. Just about anybody can create and distribute content—in contrast to the traditional model with monumentally high costs of entry, like starting a newspaper or putting a television station on the air. With user-generated content, the Internet has democratized the mass media by enabling anyone with a computer and web access to become a mass communicator.
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