At Huffington Post, everything old is new again: All reporters get blogs

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Huffington celebrates the win with staff. ()
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Once upon a time, The Huffington Post was a left-wing, Drudge-like aggregator with a stable of celebrity columns that eventually metastasized into a sort-of group-blog empire for unpaid "experts" and "citizen journalists."

More recently, founder Arianna Huffington's efforts have been concentrated on fashioning the publication into a contender among the world's big mainstream media outlets, from The New York Times to CNN, by building up a muscular newsroom with lots of reporters and scoops and Pulitzer-winning longform features.

So what's next for the impossibly successful eyeball-catcher and jewel-in-the-content-crown of parent company AOL? Blogging!

HuffPost is rolling out a new blog template in two weeks that will allow every reporter in the organization to maintain his or her own personal blog as a supplement to their usual beat-reporting for the site.

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About a dozen or so reporters, including Matt Sledge (civil liberties), Joy Resmovits (education) and Michael Calderone (media), have already begun their blogging duties using the existing template, which is being overhauled.

The idea, according to executive editor Tim O'Brien, who described the format as "almost like a reporter's notebook," is to "get our reporters out in front of people more readily on daily basis, and for it to be a platform for them to post short, quick items that they'd come across on their beats anyway."

"These are not destination blogs," added HuffPost Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim. "Destination blogs are more or less over. ... We don't necessarily expect every reporter to build up a massive audience that checks in every day. But rather it allows them to put up something really quick that might go viral. That's the thinking."

In the year 2013, it seems a bit of a no-brainer for a news website to add reporter-driven beat blogs, which have been popularized in recent years by the likes of micro-scoop machines like Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman. Yet with its myriad verticals, hyperspecific Game-of-Life channel pages (Weddings! Parenting! Divorce!) and more than 40 million monthly visitors, HuffPost seems to have been faring just fine with out them. And anyway, the site's has always had a few of its own unique blog brands. (Remember Eat the Press?)

So why start expanding into this old territory more aggressively right now?

"Because Radley's been doing so well," said Grim, referring to HuffPost senior reporter Radley Balko, who moved his criminal justice blog, The Agitator, over to huffingtonpost.com on Nov. 19.

O'Brien said the idea to bring the blogs staff-wide came from Jimmy Soni, HuffPost's precocious 20-something managing editor. Once the new template launches, the blogs will get promotion on the homepage as well as a landing page of their own.

"We'd done this before on an ad hoc basis," said O'Brien. "There's no reason not to try and do it en masse."