Huffington Post live video strategy takes shape with new hires, a new name

Henry Blodget and Arianna Huffington. (Arianna Huffington, via Twitter)
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Huffington Post staffers got a progress report last week on the site's plans for live streaming video.

Originally billed during a splashy press event back in February as The Huffington Post Streaming Network, the service is now being called HuffPost Live and is gearing up for an early July launch, according to people briefed on the plans during two well attended Wednesday afternoon staff meetings.

Roy Sekoff, Huffington Post's founding editor and a top lieutenant of the site's matriarch, Arianna Huffington (his title now also includes president and co-creator of HuffPost Live), ran the meetings, during which he also announced some of the talent recently recruited for the venture. They include former Al Jazeera English co-host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin (whose hiring was previously reported by Ad Age); Alicia Menendez, the daughter of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, who is a co-host of “Power Play” on SiriusXM Cristina Radio and a contributor to NBCLatino.com; and Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia University professor and former Fox News analyst. 

With HuffPost Live, The Huffington Post is tapping into a formula being employed by a growing number of text-based news outlets keen on exploiting the higher advertising rates and web traffic that online video commands. (HuffPost is in the final stages of nailing down the launch sponsors; huffingtonpost.com had 36.9 million unique U.S. visitors in April, according to comScore, up from 29.9 million a year earlier when the ink was still drying on AOL's $315 million acquisition of the site.)

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Huffington Post's plans, however, are more ambitious than those of some of its competitors in the live-video space, which include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Politico.

The site is calling for 12 hours of such programming every weekday produced by a staff of at least 100.

But Sekoff emphasized during his presentations that HuffPost Live is not designed to be a cable news network on the web. It doesn't have the resources to compete with CNN or MSNBC, so instead it will focus on engagement.

People present for Sekoff's demos last week described seeing a small video pane next to a big scrolling window on the right-hand side of a screen where commenters will be able to debate issues being discussed by the hosts in real time. Some of these viewers might even be beamed in as guests via Skype.

Staffers, meanwhile, are eager to see what the thing actually looks like once it gets off the ground. One told Capital: "People are quite intrigued by the whole notion."

A Huffington Post spokesperson declined to comment.

HuffPost Live is prepping for its big debut amid chatter that Arianna Huffington is not as excited about AOL's ownership of her seven-year-old website as she was when the deal was announced last winter.

During a recent conference appearance, she acknowledged that her role within AOL had narrowed, but dismissed rumors that she wants to buy HuffPost back from its corporate parent, telling Business Insider's Henry Blodget: "I'm very happy, [AOL chief executive] Tim Armstrong is very happy. We keep unlocking HuffPost value, which is very good for the parent company. So all is good."

Aside from HuffPost Live, Huffington's also busy with the site's ongoing international expansion.

"I want us to be in 13 languages soon," she said during her chat with Blodget. "I have a lot of big plans for it."