Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington's celebrity blog, The Huffington Post, had its formal coming-out on May 9. She's reportedly lined up 200 or more luminaries to contribute posts, and the site includes news items with comments and headline links to news stories, not unlike Drudge. Arianna, like Rodney Dangerfield, "don't get no respect" in some quarters, a problem she largely brought on herself. The "real" media (the ones presumably not wearing pajamas) have given her blog mixed reviews. Some samples:

One of the more favorable stories was by Howard Kurtz, in the Washington Post:

Huffington's Hollywood pals -- who also include such writers and producers as David Mamet, Norman Lear, Mike Nichols and Aaron Sorkin -- are just the neon attractions. She is also touting Walter Cronkite, Gary Hart, Arthur Schlesinger, Mort Zuckerman, Vernon Jordan and Robert Kennedy Jr. And while the blog is heavy on left-wingers, she has reached out to the right, luring the likes of John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, Tony Blankley of the Washington Times and National Review's David Frum. ...

The best blogs, love 'em or hate 'em, have an unmistakable voice; this will be a cacophony of voices. It's an open question whether the scribblings of the rich and influential can be as compelling as those of previously obscure people who are now online stars.

Although reports in the LA Times have been generally positive, Tim Rutten wasn't very friendly. That's a bit of a surprise, given the paper's penchant for fawning over anything or anyone considered liberal (sorry, I meant to say "progressive"). His piece includes a reference to two news reports, in the Drudge-type section, that were erroneous. More:

It's...clear that most of the celebrity bloggers, who are supposed to give Huffington's new venture its special claim on our over-taxed attention, became famous for something other than thinking and writing. ...

The celebrity contributors to Monday's launch were mercifully brief--more blurbers than bloggers. Unless you harbor a masochistic streak, you'll probably think that's for the best, as their submissions range from merely precious to incoherent. ...

The best of the celebrity bloggers turn out to be people who, in fact, are famous for doing journalism of one sort or another. ...

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the early edition of the Huffingtonpost is the way in which it fails to exploit the potential advantages of its online situation. The notion of having knowledgeable commentators analyze breaking news in real time under one tent is a fairly exciting prospect. The design of this site could make that possible, if the news were, in fact, breaking and the commentators were, in fact, knowledgeable and up to the task.

Nikki Finke, writing in LA Weekly, savages Arianna in an often catty report that includes background on items such as investor problems that I didn't find elsewhere. Excerpts:

Judging from Monday's horrific debut of the humongously pre-hyped celebrity blog the Huffington Post, the Madonna of the mediapolitic world has undergone one reinvention too many. She has now made an online ass of herself. What her bizarre guru-cult association, 180-degree right-to-left conversion, and failed run in the California gubernatorial-recall race couldn't accomplish, her blog has now done: She is finally played out publicly. This website venture is the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable. Her blog is such a bomb that it's the movie equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate rolled into one. In magazine terms, it's the disastrous clone of Tina Brown's Talk, JFK Jr.'s George or Maer Roshan's Radar.

No matter what happens to Huffington, it's clear Hollywood will suffer the consequences. It seems like some sick hoax. Perhaps Huffington is no longer a card-carrying progressive but now a conservative mole. Because she has served up liberal celebs like red meat on a silver platter for the salivating and Hollywood-hating right wing to chew up and spit out. I hear that prominent liberals in L.A. and N.Y. and Washington D.C. are aghast not just that she's encouraged jejune rants by their liberal brethren, but that she's also provided yet another forum for select right-wing blowhards. They don't understand why Arianna has saddled progressives with that "Hollywood elitist" branding. ... that the blog is online, has-been [Warren] Beatty so far is a no-show, probably because he hasn't been able to utter a declarative sentence in this lifetime.

Finally, AOL News has a nice item on the contributors, along with a couple of polls you can contribute to.

Personally, I think The Huffington Post is interesting. However, it may be trying to be too many things at one time. "The Blog" section, where the celebrities post, doesn't allow comments, which kind of implies that they're a little too important to be bothered by the opinions of the great unwashed masses. "The News Wire" section posts teasers to media reports and does allow comments, making it look a little more like a blog than the blog itself. The Drudge-like news headlines on the right side of the home page link to both the press reports themselves and to the corresponding items in "The News Wire" section.

Part of most media stories about The Huffington Post allude to it as a challenge to the Drudge Report. That's something most of them like because there's nothing they would rather see than the demise of Drudge, which they often refer to incorrectly as a right-wing blog. From what I see so far, Huffington's site is more liberal than Drudge's is conservative. And the Drudge Report isn't a blog. It's a headline service and media reference site, with a little reporting thrown in. The Huffington Post is trying to be all of that plus a blog. Time will tell if it works.


Blogger Brash Limburg said...

Rob Reiner laid a real egg on this site the other day, made a post about it on my blog if you're interested.

10:49 PM, May 11, 2005  

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