12:07 pm Jun. 14, 2012
Arianna Huffington has always been fond of metaphors. And the one she came up with last night to describe the new tablet publication launched by her website today turned out to be a crowd-pleaser.
"It's basically the difference between a one-night stand and a long getaway when you want to get to know someone really intimately," she said, drawing laughter from the few hundred party-goers gathered on the greenhouse-like rooftop of The Gramercy Park Hotel, where Huffington and her staff were feting Huffington., or, as Huffington called it, "Huffington period."
Maybe it was the cucumber-infused cocktails that were flowing, but Huffington, known for her abiding charisma, seemed more charming and vivacious than usual. Dressed in a bright orange shirt that added color to her black pantsuit, the Greek-born media mogul kept the crowd chuckling as she introduced them to "the latest member of The Huffington Post family"—a paid weekly iPad magazine featuring exclusive content from her sizeable army of editors, reporters and columnists. It hit the Apple Store for the first time today, and will be available going forward every Friday for 99 cents an issue following a month-long free trial period. Earlier this week, Huffington Post executive editor Tim O'Brien, who's heading up the project, gave several reporters a preview, telling them: "We feel it's a premium product and it deserves to carry a price with it in order to access all the value we're giving people."
At its core, Huffington is a value-add. With a slick design highly reminiscent of the old print newsweekly, it has the potential to attract advertisers still paying those higher dollars for lush print-magazine placements and wary of banner ads on busy web pages. (Huffington said her newsroom now produces 1,500 stories a day, about 70 to 80 of which are original.) It's also a way to showcase The Huffington Post's efforts to generate in-depth journalism, which has become a bigger part of the operation, even though these types of features sometimes gets drowned out by things like the Huffington Post's new topic page devoted to pictures of celebrities whose breasts peek through from the sides of their outfits. (Huffington said the section, called "HuffPost Sideboob," was meant as a joke, but you get the idea.) David Wood's series on wounded Afghanistan veterans, which won a Pulitzer this year, on the other hand, is easy to picture in the iPad-magazine setting.
"We felt that we needed to pull the best and put them in a beautiful setting like jewels, so you could enjoy them when you have time over the weekend," she said.
The slogans on the cocktail napkins that were circulating reinforced this concept: "A shorter name. A longer read," and, "Join the slow news movement."
But none of this is to say that Huffington, who's grown her eponymous New York-based news brand into a multi-continent media empire over the past seven years, is looking to put The New Yorker out of business.
During her speech, she recalled the moment O'Brien, a former New York Times editor who also worked at Tina Brown's short-lived Talk in the early 2000s, approached her last year about launching a magazine.
"I kind of cringed because my father used to be in the print magazine business in Athens, Greece, and every single one of them went bankrupt," she said. "So we compromised."
"A magazine? Yes. Print? Never."