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HuffPost Canada's First Year -- Disruptin' the Hood

Posted: 05/23/2012 11:35 am

Where are the readers? It's a question that many of us in the news industry have been asking. I won't lie: When I was asked last month at a conference what my biggest fear was, what keeps me up, I answered, "Where are the readers? Where have they gone?"

A year after we launched The Huffington Post Canada, I can confidently say that I think we've helped win back some of you. Our approach to storytelling, and how our journalism is conducted, and how it is shaped by social media has helped us answer that question.

A year on, I can tell you that readers are coming. As of April, 2.9 million Canadians visited Huffington Post sites to the tune of 415 million page views. We have more than 800 bloggers, who have contributed more than 5,000 posts. Our readers are so active, leaving 12,000 comments a week on our site for a total of 340,000 comments to date.

A few months ago, a piece ran in The Globe and Mail about us: Is The Huffington Post the future of journalism? "The future of journalism" is always a heady discussion I see flashing by on my Twitter stream.

The media space, like the tech environment we're a part of, has seen its share of disruptors. They emerge and almost instantly become the new brands, seemingly appearing out of nowhere: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Instagram, Pinterest are examples of the idea that challenging the status quo was a formula for success.

The Huffington Post is a disruptor. What I love about us is that we are digital -- end of story. Many of you have heard the cries from news executives who say, "Put the digital guys in charge." You hear others who use the words "digital first." They are talking about media that are rooted in other businesses. In my business, digital is the business. Period.

Years ago, HuffPost adopted the fact that with digital, newspapers no longer fight against newspapers, portals against portals, T.V. against T.V. But another factor has emerged as well -- and it's important to not lose sight of that: We are in the battle for readers and for their time. Time, not news, is the suck, and every platform is on the same battlefield for that time.

Time -- sucked away by longer work hours, hobbies and our overheated smartphones -- pit media against radio, T.V., movies, Twitter, books, exercise regimes and your favourite HBO series. We battle across those platforms and against those same players.

We believe content has no barriers: The medium changed the form, but think of it as an evolution. This day, I believe we have more tools to tell stories. Video, Social, Text or a mashup of all of the above. We create our journalistic constructs so they are read from beginning to end.

A few of our highlights from this past year:

A blog from Charlie Angus. It was titled "What if They Declared an Emergency and No One Came?" It had garnered thousands of shares on FB, and countless retweets. The story was Attawapiskat, and the blog was the first time the story got out to the masses. Seventy-thousand FB shares, 1,200 Tweets, 900 comments and by that Thursday, Charlie was calling it a "digital storm" that was forcing its way into the public debates on that same floor.

The platform we have is built for social because it is social. The debate we foster is amazing. We are a social news experience. Social is not a skill set, it is in our DNA, and how we communicate with you, our community. Everything we do flows to social and we see the results in the high level of participation in our comments to the amount of sharing that happens around our stories. We shape our content based on feedback from you. And we have countless examples, including a few memorable hashtags, #beereh, #giftgurus, #snowballfight, #myspring, #huffquiz.

We have a tone and personality, and it helps us connect to our audience. It is part of our identity and I think you love us for that.

We support great journalism -- to not always be where the scrum is. There are many examples throughout our daily coverage, but I'll point to how Althia Raj covered the CETA trade negotiations and was at many times the lone Ottawa reporter covering the NDP leadership race, and our business team's thoughtful and well-reported Mind the Gap series.

HuffPost is exciting because it has opened the door to a new audience that have distanced themselves from news. We are happy to engage and inform that audience. HuffPost is great simply because we now have another voice among many -- who can argue against that?

To my colleagues throughout the industry: Let's do ourselves a favour. Let's stop talking about the future of journalism. Let's stop hand wringing about what outlet is doing what, what territory they are pushing. Let's stop laying blame -- at culture, leadership. Let's focus on listening to what our audience is doing. What they are not doing. "Be where the puck is" is my motto because I translate that to mean be where the reader is.

Our living editor Rebecca Zamon told us about a dinner she had recently with her husband's cousins, where she talked with their 86-year-old aunt.

"When I told her where I worked," Rebecca said, "she exclaimed, 'I love the Huffington Post Canada -- I read it every day! Keep up the great work.' 86!"

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with my girlfriend's family, when her 18-year-old niece, started talking about the news. "The Huffington Post, I read that!" she said, referring to an RSS reader on her new Macbook. As I told her she was my now-favourite family member, another person flipped on her iPhone and showed me her news app, with that big unmistakable HuffPost icon. So there's where the readers are.

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  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Conrad Black, Peter Worthington, Arianna Huffington and Graham Moysey.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Danielle Crittenden and Jim Harris

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Le Huffington Post Quebec's editor Patrick White and The Huffington Post Canada's Lisa Yeung.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Yvonne Crittenden and Daniel Alexandre Portoraro.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Glenn Thomas and Olivia Chow

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Althia Raj, Conrad Black and Michael Bolen.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Kenny Yum, Jean-Philippe Cipriani, Lisa Yeung, Erica Ehm and Brad Cressman.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Canadian Senator Jim Munson and former federal cabinet minister David Collenette.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Danielle Crittenden and Andreas Souvaliotis

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Mubin Shaikh and Danielle Crittenden

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Danielle Crittenden, Andrew Coyne, Arianna Huffington and Rod Charles.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Arianna Huffington and AOL's Christie Hill.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    The Huffington Post Canada's Angelina Chapin, Christian Controneo and Arti Patel.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    The Huffington Post Canada's Althia Raj and Danielle Crittenden

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Arianna Huffington, Danielle Crittenden and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

  • Arianna Huffington in Toronto

    Arianna Huffington at the AOL Canada offices in Toronto for The Huffington Post Canada's first birthday party.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Arianna Huffington and Conrad Black.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Arianna Huffington and Olivia Chow.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Arianna Huffington and Conrad Black.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    The day of our birth.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    A really big birthday card.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Conversations start here.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Photo booth

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Lootbags for our guests.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Signing the card! AOL Canada's Leanne Gibson shares her birthday wishes.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Sidewalk art in progress. The original illustration was created for HuffPost Canada's launch last year.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    The office resembled a circus tent.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Make your own s'mores bar.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    HuffPost Canada's Brodie Fenlon, Angelina Chapin, Rachel Mendleson and Michael Bolen.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    HuffPost Canada's Althia Raj, Brodie Fenlon, Danielle Crittenden, HuffPost Quebec's Patrick White and AOL Canada's Brad Cressman.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    From left, HuffPost Canada's Rashida Jeeva, Kenny Yum, Brad Cressman and Althia Raj.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    AOL Canada's Dawn Cuthbertson.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Sidewalk art in progress.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    HuffPost Canada's Brodie Fenlon, left, and HuffPost Quebec's Jean-Philippe Cipriani.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    HuffPost Canada General Manager Rashida Jeeva signs the card.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj on duty.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Party goers

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    DJ booth.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Wall of fame.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    The hustle of the party.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Conrad Black chats with HuffPost blogger Elizabeth Abbott and Peter Worthington.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Aol's Christie Hill.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Attendees listen to Arianna speak.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    AOL Canada general manager Graham Moysey gives a speech with Arianna Huffington.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Arianna Huffington and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Food Dudes caterers.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Sidewalk art.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Sidewalk art

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Staff from AOL Canada and The Huffington Post Canada.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    The wall of wins.

  • HuffPost Canada's Birthday Party

    Completed sidewalk art.

SEE HUFFPOST FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY COVERAGE HERE.

This blog is adapted from a keynote delivered to the Canadian Association of Journalists annual conference in April.

 

Follow Kenny Yum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@yumke

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