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Has HuffPost Live set the tone for the future of journalism?

Posted by Joe McNamara on 15th August 2012

This week Arianna Huffington launched her new platform, HuffPost Live, an online live video streaming channel that brings users real time analysis of the hot topics being shared and talked about on social networks.

The Huffington Post itself provides the basis for this exciting new way of bringing news, with the most interesting and popular content from the site being presented to a live audience by a team of ten presenters, 12 hours a day.

However, it’s not just a simple case of regurgitating existing content in video form for the sake of it. Unrestricted by time, format, or shows, like traditional TV and radio broadcast channels are, HuffPost Live assesses the trending topics based on the most shared stories from the blogging network, as well as on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

How does it work?

Much like a social network itself, the live stream has the flexibility to jump between topics without pre-recorded content or specific time slots to fill. Just like flicking through your Twitter feed, one moment you can find out what’s going on with the Presidential election, the next is a spate of rumours about the launch of the next iPhone.

The Huffington Post has taken over 100 new staff stationed between studios in New York and Los Angeles, as well as a satellite studio operating out of Washington D.C. However, the real manpower behind the new channel is its bloggers, readers, and followers on social networks. And by using technology such as Google hangouts and Skype, anyone with a tablet, smartphone or computer can be connected.

The content is totally dictated by what people are talking about at that moment. It covers everything from politics to technology to sport to cute pets. Users can join the discussion simply by commenting on a story that interests them, and their comment may be mentioned, responded to, or they may be asked to explain themselves to the live audience via Skype!

Is this the future of journalism?

It’s always difficult to see where the future of journalism is really headed, and it’s something that interests us tech PRs for a number of reasons. Namely that we have an active interest in the media and the latest trends, but also because technology is usually the driving force behind these changes.

What is clear is that these quite revolutionary new ways of ‘doing news’ reflects a number of trends in the way that we consume content, and even more interestingly, how we interact with it. Firstly, the obsession with video is a consumer-led trend with social networking sites such as YouTube and Tumblr leading the way.

HuffPost Live streams are made available as on demand content, meaning they can be shared more easily and at any time. According the Cisco Visual Networking Index 2012, ‘it would take over 6 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2016’, and developments such as this help you realise why.

While this is fairly ground breaking, does it really represent a break with the norm? Possibly the most traditional of all broadcast media, the BBC, has itself made the transition to live streaming content, with a particular emphasis on mobile. On demand channels such as BBC iPlayer combat the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to watch every show. Likewise, the BBC Sport Olympics smartphone app received two million downloads during London 2012, bringing viewers live content from multiple events taking place simultaneously.

Secondly, even the most traditional forms of publication such as broadsheet newspapers like The Guardian and The Telegraph have adapted to make their content social and shareable in the digital age. However, conducting live interviews by Skype and letting social networks plan your editorial content? That’s another thing altogether.

Is it really that shocking though? More news than ever can be classed as global news, especially in the world of technology. We also already knew that the relationship between news and time has changed – one of the reasons for so many publications moving online – so they could report news as quickly as their competitors.

With that in mind, it’s looks as though HuffPost Live is a forward looking and zany idea that could just last. If anything, it’s been on the cards for a fairly long time.

Joe McNamara