Lauren Goode

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Get Ready for Lots of Streaming Arianna With HuffPost Video Network

The Huffington Post, which was acquired by AOL a year ago this week, is the latest to jump aboard the video train, with the unveiling today of plans to launch a streaming video network this summer.

It’s not a big surprise that the giant and perpetual-motion online news site would do this.

After all, in the new age of media, newspaper Web sites are turning more toward streaming and on-demand video, attempting to take text-driven reporting and present it in rich, feed-it-to-me news packages.

But whether consumers want to tune in on schedule or call up news videos when they feel like watching is still up for debate.

In the HuffPost’s case, the video will be streamed to its flagship site, as well as to other AOL Web sites.

Jeff Bercovici of Forbes had the scoop on this a couple weeks ago, laying out Arianna Huffington’s ambitions to meet the increasing demand — at least, on the part of advertisers — for good video content.

Ambitious is probably the right word, since the Huffington Post and AOL plan to stream 12 hours a day, five days a week, with eight hours of content produced in New York and the rest out of Los Angeles.

Eventually, Huffington Post founding editor Roy Sekoff said that the network is aiming to reach 16 hours a day of live daily programming. With 2012 elections looming, the network will also feature lots of political reporters from Washington, he added.

The plan will also be costly — with the AOL media unit putting a hundred employees behind the streaming video effort, culling from the current HuffPost-AOL editorial staff of 320, as well as new hires with video-specific skills.

Will it work?

There’s little question that Web video viewing is on the rise. According to a 2011 Nielsen report, U.S. consumers now spend an average of four hours and 20 minutes per month watching video on the Web, an hour and 10 minutes more than the amount they watched in early 2010.

But Huffington and Sekoff believe that, despite the fact the HuffPost is mirroring the cable TV model and a lot of the programming will be live, consumers still aren’t all that interested in watching on a set schedule.

What Huffington Post is doing is not unlike what the Wall Street Journal Digital Network has been building over the last few years.

(Full disclosure: The WSJ, for those who aren’t aware, is owned by News Corp.’s Dow Jones, which also owns this Web site. I also previously worked at the WSJ’s video unit.)

Like WSJ’s video product, HuffPo will offer on-demand clips in addition to the live-streaming, deploying in-house staff as talent, plus Patch local reporters and sources in from the field using Skype video. It will also distribute the news video content on mobile phones and tablets.

The New York Times has also gotten into the streaming video game with its latest effort, Business Day Live, which launched yesterday.

Sekoff dismissed the idea that HuffPost was mimicking other news organizations, or even cable.

“No offense to the WSJ, but I think we got more comments this month than the WSJ did last year,” Sekoff said, referencing the more than six million comments on the main HuffPost site in January alone. “People don’t want to be talked to when they get their news; they want to converse with.”

And he said that HuffPost has no plans to become a cable TV network, although they’re open to potentially sharing the video content with interested networks. In terms of revenue generation, Huffington Post currently doesn’t have advertisers committed to the streaming network, but is seeking a handful of partners for launch.

Right now, there are no plans for a set schedule of programing, said Sekoff, because he feels that Web video consumers ultimately don’t care when the video is on.

“People don’t come home from work and say, ‘Oh it’s 9 pm, I think I’ll watch sports on the Web now,’” he said. “We just don’t think it’s there yet.”

Huffington concurred and said her own casual Internet video-watching habits — which include bouts of “Saturday Night Live,” Comedy Central and “The Good Wife” — reflect this.

“We don’t think Web video is about appointment-watching.” she said. “But just because people are watching Web video one way, doesn’t mean it’s the end of other kinds of consumption.”


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