The Huffington Post is launching in the UK at the perfect time, says Alastair Campbell.
Speaking at Millbank Tower on a panel for the official launch event, Campbell said the British public are facing up to what newspapers have become – positioning Arianna Huffington’s news website in the perfect place to cause disruption.
Newspapers in this country are going further and further down the barrel until they reach the bottom, like the Sun. We’ll still have newspapers in future, there’ll just be fewer of them.
The panel (moderated by Richard Bacon) comprised of HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington, Kelly Osbourne, Jon Gaunt, Celia Walden and Shami Chakrabarti. Key themes that emerged throughout the debate were phone hacking, superinjunctions, the public perception of journalism and the issue of trust.
Huffington responded to claims from Toby Young that the launch was ill-timed by saying the website has “a phenomenal reach”, and its social nature would set it apart from other more well established UK sites.
Huffington Post is a combination of constant updates. It’s not about sitting on the couch and passively consuming, it’s about constantly passing on information, sharing and liking.
We employ 1,300 journalists, editors and reporters, but ulimately Huffington Post is a platform for our 9,000 bloggers. We promote linking, original reporting and making information available, people blog for us because they can use our huge audience and because they have something to say.
Jon Gaunt agreed with this, saying Huffington endeared herself to her bloggers by making her website very open. But he also criticised many newspapers’ forays into digital journalism.
Lots of newspaper websites are useless, because they’re made and look like newspapers. They’re created by people who’ve worked in newspapers their whole lives, and look terrible.
One thing the panel agreed on was the issue of trust and the role it would play in the future development of journalism. Summing up, Campbell said:
The single most important piece of communication regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden was still Barack Obama’s words, despite the thousands of articles written about the event.
Politicians still have ability to set the agenda, but people don’t trust politicians, journalists or economists – we still trust each other.
That’s why social news works – we talk to people we trust.