A big pivot for HuffPost Video
The Huffington Post is consolidating its video operations across the site in a strategic pivot that will effectively see the end of HuffPost Live in its existing format and refocus the company on shareable video content and long-form, documentary-style productions.
Sources tell POLITICO there have been layoffs as part of the maneuver, though a memo sent to employees makes no specific mention of cuts. Cuts had been rumored this week, multiple sources told POLITICO, and some insiders have been on edge ahead of an all-hands company meeting that was called for Monday.
In Friday's memo, founder and editor in chief Arianna Huffington said the video units HuffPost Live, HuffPost News, HuffPost Originals and HuffPost Rise will merge into a single team.
"The changes we’re making will position us to be the dominant global media company in video in this ever-changing media environment," Huffington said in the email, which was co-signed by CEO Jared Grusd.
"As well as shifting resources toward building out the most engaging and shareable video unit in the business, we’ll invest in long-form documentaries and original series based on HuffPost’s core editorial pillars of What’s Working and wellness," they wrote. "And building on the momentum of our recent Facebook sprint, we’ll continue to be laser-focused on creating shareable video."
As part of the pivot, HuffPost Live will no longer broadcast eight hours a day, but will go live for major news events and headline-making celebrity interviews.
Reached via email, Huffington said, "HuffPost Live remains an integral part of HuffPost." She did not respond to a follow-up question asking about cuts. A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
HuffPost, which enjoys prodigious web traffic and has numerous editions around the world, is the marquee content operation of AOL, which was acquired by Verizon last year.
In 2012, it launched an ambitious live streaming web-video network called HuffPost Live, which became the cornerstone of HuffPost's video strategy. Video has become something of a Holy Grail for news publishers, who are out to capitalize on its premium advertising rates and high rate of user engagement.
HuffPost Live's future has been unclear lately, however. Last month, HuffPost Live co-creator and video department chief Roy Sekoff, who also was HuffPost's founding editor and a longtime lieutenant of Huffington's, announced he was leaving the company.
Today's news follows other big changes in recent months. Grusd, a former executive of the streaming music service Spotify, was named CEO in August. This fall, The Huffington Post appointed a new executive editor, Liz Heron, to serve as the primary newsroom leader under Huffington.
Heron has a strong background in social media and audience development, having served in those capacities at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and, most recently, Facebook. Sources said that her influence on pushing highly shareable, social-media-friendly content has already been felt, though her broader editorial vision remains to be seen.
We'll update this article as we learn more.
Read the full memo from Huffington and Grusd below:
Today marks an important milestone in our video strategy: we’re combining our video units (HuffPost Live, HuffPost News, HuffPost Originals, HuffPost Rise) into a unified video team.
The values of community and engagement have driven HuffPost from Day 1. But the universe of platforms where people engage with video is expanding exponentially. The changes we’re making will position us to be the dominant global media company in video in this ever-changing media environment. They will allow us to create video tailor-made for various platforms, whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, or whatever may come next -- all while continuing to innovate and invest in our own platforms, including the new contributor platform technology we’ll be launching that will take us from 100,000 to one million bloggers.
When we launched HuffPost Live three and a half years ago, our pioneering technology allowed us to create the most social video experience possible -- 32,000 guests from more than 100 countries, yielding 3 billion views so far. There was nothing else like it. And there’s still nothing else like it. HuffPost Live has established itself as an essential stop on book and movie tours, attracting newsmakers and creating Internet moments (Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani's recent interview with R. Kelly is a perfect example). With these interviews now featured on the HuffPost homepage in addition to the HuffPost Live site, we'll continue the incredible live experience we're known for.
The way the world consumes video has changed dramatically, and we’re changing along with it to deliver video as efficiently as possible. Instead of creating shareable videos by doing 8 hours of live video every day, we will be creating videos to be shared directly on an ever-growing range of platforms. And we’ll go live when warranted, for big political and cultural events, and newsmaker and celebrity interviews. We’ll also create these live viewing experiences while leveraging platforms like Facebook Live, Periscope, and YouNow.
As well as shifting resources toward building out the most engaging and shareable video unit in the business, we’ll invest in long-form documentaries and original series based on HuffPost’s core editorial pillars of What’s Working and wellness. And building on the momentum of our recent Facebook sprint, we’ll continue to be laser-focused on creating shareable video like 48 Things Women Hear In A Lifetime that generated over 30 million views. Our goal is to produce videos that are not only entertaining but also add value to people’s lives. And we’ll do that by doubling down on two of our editorial priorities -- covering solutions to the biggest problems of our time, and exploring ways to live our lives with less stress and more fulfillment.
Our third pillar, covering news and politics, is a foundational part of HuffPost’s editorial DNA. What will be different in covering the 2016 election is that this will be a campaign dominated by video viewed largely on social platforms. We plan to go all in on this approach, comprehensively covering the election in a way that's focused on enhancing the conversation through shareable video. And that includes ramping up our commitment to 2016-related video, including original series like “New Hampshire."
In the coming months, we’ll be announcing several series and franchises built for off-platform consumption. We have seen tremendous success with our series to date, including “16 & President” and “Now What with Ryan Duffy,” and look forward to new original series, including “Talk To Me,” launching this spring.
One of our youngest and most promising HuffPost babies, HuffPost Rise, our new morning show, has had anamazing start. It will continue to grow as we reimagine the morning show around solutions and stories that help us live our lives with less burnout and more creativity and happiness. Indeed, starting Monday, all video coverage on wellness, lifestyle and What’s Working will be produced out of HuffPost Rise. And we look forward to continuing to explore the incredible possibilities of virtual reality, as we’ve done in partnership with RYOT around Syrian refugees in Greece.
And all of this video expansion will be led by our stellar team of Liz Heron, Danny Shea, Cindy Vanegas, Megan Robertson, and David Flumenbaum.
As we bring our video teams together into a unified enterprise, we have another announcement: we are ending the fourth/fifth floor division in our New York headquarters, integrating all of our teams in a way that will lead to even closer collaborations. We’re moving several editorial departments to the fourth floor, and much of video production to the fifth floor.
Finally, we are delighted to announce that Lauren Moraski will be joining us from CBS as our Editorial Director for Entertainment, where we plan to grow our video programming exponentially in 2016.
We talk often about the need to stay nimble, to adapt, to iterate, to evolve, and to keep disrupting ourselves in our fast-changing media environment. The changes we’re making around video are a reflection of that need and of our commitment to building the dominant global media brand of the 21st century. Please join us Monday for an all-hands meeting at 11 a.m. in Roebling on the 6th floor, where we can go deeper on all these decisions, and answer any questions you have. More information for our offices around the world will follow shortly. Thank you for everything and looking forward to a great 2016.
Arianna and Jared