The Internet Newspaper

Of the many “NewNews” Web sites that have been launched over the past several years, The Huffington Post is one of the few (perhaps only) that actually provides something of a model for the future of news.  While most of these sites are pure aggregators, The Huffington Post, which began as a blog and therefore primarily an aggregator, actually produces content.  On Monday, The Huffington Post, which calls itself “The Internet Newspaper,” announced that it secured a $25mm investment from Oak Investment Partners, an investment which apparently values the company at around $100mm.  That valuation, by the way, is higher than Lee Enterprises, a publicly traded newspaper company with over 50 daily newspapers. From the press release:

The Huffington Post (”HuffPost”) will use the proceeds to invest in the growth of the company and for select and focused acquisitions. The company said it would invest in its technology and infrastructure, increase its in-house advertising capabilities, and continue to expand its content offerings–including a new investigative journalism initiative and a rollout of local versions of The Huffington Post in select cities.

HuffPo has already launched a Chicago version.

The Huffington Post’s traffic soared during the latest election cycle, as one would expect of a politically oriented Web site, but this investment is a bet that, as Oak VC Fred Harman says, “…the post-election perception of the Huffington Post has changed in the eyes of advertisers to being a key mainstream news site.”

As the HuffPo moves into new subject areas, it’s worth asking if the site really is “The Internet Newspaper.” It has progressed from March of this year when Eric Alterman wrote,

The notion that the Huffington Post is somehow going to compete with, much less displace, the best traditional newspapers is arguable on other grounds as well. The site’s original-reporting resources are minuscule. The site has no regular sports or book coverage, and its entertainment section is a trashy grab bag of unverified Internet gossip. And, while the Huffington Post has successfully positioned itself as the place where progressive politicians and Hollywood liberal luminaries post their anti-Bush Administration sentiments, many of the original blog posts that it publishes do not merit the effort of even a mouse click.

But has it progressed enough? It’s not clear, but there are certainly some things it does right. At first glance, several pop out – it has a transparent mission (much like the Guardian), it does a great job at aggregation, and it presents continuously updated opinion feeding off of that aggregation. That opinion also includes pieces written by celebrities, both from entertainment as well as politics. (It’s not clear what value Sean Penn’s ramblings really hold, but who can resist taking a look?) We’ll see how it does with new content areas and original reporting, but right now I wouldn’t bet against it.

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