It is with a lot of emotion and joy that we celebrate today the first anniversary of the Huffington Post Québec. In these days and age, launching a new media site is quite a challenge.
I think about my first day alone in the small HuffPost office in Montreal overlooking the Mount Royal and the financial district. A day full of promise. In the following weeks, I had the chance to hire great people : Jean-Philippe Cipriani as news editor and Tamy Emma Pepin as blogs editor to ensure a successful launch.
And what a launch it was! After an official online launch around four in the morning alongside Jean-Philippe, Tamy, Kenny Yum, Lisa Yeung, Rashida Jeeva, Isabelle Marceau, Julie Marcil, Nicholas Sabloff and Bob Perez, Arianna Huffington and I met about 20 journalists to present Le Huffington Post Québec. At lunch time, Arianna gave a great keynote before 500 guests at the Queen Elizabeth hotel. A great cocktail party followed at night. Adrenaline kept us alive!
One year later, HuffPost Québec has charming offices in Old Montreal and provides work for eight journalists, four sales representatives, an advertising network and soon a marketing coordinator and an automobile reporter. We have more than 370 bloggers and several contributors that make us a go-to reference in Quebec for opinions and news. We have an iPad app, an iPhone app and an Android app. We have gone mobile.
I firmly believe that HuffPost's presence contributed to a greater diversity of ideas and opinions in Quebec. Also, our stories have received 145,000 comments in one year. This is clearly amazing and our readers are really engaged in conversations throughout Quebec. Our presence has also increased competition in the Quebec news market, which is really beneficial for the business as a whole. I believe we made a difference and that Quebecers are better informed than they were 12 months ago. They have one more reliable and objective source of information.
Two thousand and thirteen will be a year of growth for AOL in Quebec. We intend to launch Autoblog Québec, an auto news site, in March. We are also exploring other ideas for later this year.
I am proud of our achievements. Le HuffPost has become one of the top players in Quebec's media universe. Our fair and original coverage of Quebec's massive student strike last year has helped to position us a news leader. So did our wall-to-wall coverage of the provincial election campaign in August and September.
We broke many stories in 2012, including the March 16, 2012, scoop on the planned $3.4 billion acquisition of Astral Media by Bell, and the series of investigative stories by our journalist Caroline d'Astous. We created and published dozens of exclusive reports in 2012 and we also sent our military affairs contributor Nicolas Laffont to cover Canadian troops stationed in Afghanistan, here in Canada, in the Great North and also in the United States. One of my priorities was also to properly cover Quebec's vibrant cultural and entertainment scene. Montreal is a great metropolis and Quebec City is a booming town and we covered the province's stars as well as the hipster scene. Besides Quebec, Le HuffPost covered the Berlin Film Festival on location, , Cannes and SXSW in Texas. For me, culture cannot be separated from Quebec's strong French identity and it is vital that HuffPost Québec be at the heart of all of this.
In 2013, we will continue making hundreds of access to information requests to also inform Quebecers about how their money is spent by the government and its Crown corporations. Radio stations, TV stations and newspapers now quote our exclusive stories on a regular basis while our journalists and bloggers are invited to comment the news of the day. Slowly but surely, Le HuffPost is making inroads in Quebec.
Le HuffPost reaches 315,000 unique visitors a month in average, which gives us 4.3 million pages viewed, according to ComScore. During the student strike, we had a peak of 371,000 unique visitors. This is an increase of almost 200% since Feb. 8, 2012. This puts us ahead of well established news sites such as Sympatico Québec, Le Journal de Québec, Métro Montréal, L'Actualité, Voir.ca and FM 98.5. About 88 percent of our readers come from Quebec and 715,000 Québécois visit either HuffPost Canada or HuffPost Québec. So we have great ambitions for 2013.
The strength of HuffPost is combining three elements : the opinion blogs, hard news and viral content. This viral content published and created by HuffPost Québec has confirmed our social media DNA with some 22,000 Facebook fans, 22,000 Twitter followers and two very popular newsletters. Our stories and blog posts make people talk and comment. We had 145,000 comments in the past year. We generated conversations and debates. This is healthy. Our readers also enjoyed our live coverage of events like the Quebec election night on September 4 or the U.S. election night in November and the Quebec awards shows. HuffPost is there when it matters.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the employees of and contributors to Le Huffington Post Québec since the beginning. Without Jean-Philippe Cipriani, Tamy Emma Pepin, Isabelle Marceau, Bob Perez, Marie-Lyse Paquin, Éric Parazelli and Julie Marcil, we could not have done it.
I also want to congratulate the current members of the team: Isabelle Marceau, Patrick Bellerose, Myreille Simard, Myriam Lefebvre, Catherine Levesque and Geoffrey Dirat. This is truly a formidable team that cares about the readers above all.
I want to stress also the unconditional support from our colleagues at AOL Canada and HuffPost Canada in Toronto. Their mentorship was key for us. I am thinking here about Graham Moysey, Brad Cressman, Kenny Yum, Brodie Fenlon, Lisa Yeung, Rashida Jeeva, Laura Pearce and Ian Dorion. On the U.S. side, Arianna Huffington and Nicholas Sabloff are always there for us and we deeply appreciate it.
On the other side of the Atlantic, HuffPost France has broadened our horizons and helped us better understand the world we live in. The original content of Le HuffPost in France has been extremely beneficial for us. Merci!
There are still many things to accomplish and this is only a start. I am very conscious of this. Thanks a lot for your readership. We are here to stay.
Follow Patrick White on Twitter: www.twitter.com/patwhite70