HuffPost Live: The focus is talking with, not to, its audience

By Jim O'Neill on Jun 03 2014 at 9:00 AM

When AOL bought the Huffington Post, the online magazine decided it wanted more original content, more engagement and more immediacy.

The result? HuffPost Live.

“People don’t want to be talked at anymore, they want to be talked with,” said Roy Sekoff, president and co-creator of HuffPost Live and founding editor of the Huffington Post. “There’s been a shift in the way people engage in content. The days of the media gods sitting up on Mount Olympus telling us the way it is… those days are gone. Now, people want to be part of the story from presentation to participation.”

Sekoff, speaking at the BroadbandTVcon conference in Santa Clara, Calif., cited the “tremendous move of eyeballs over to digital.”

Some 61% of Americans are now watching online video; the average time of viewing, Sekoff said, is 19 hours a month.

That change, he said, is creating a new media category.

“I don’t know if (the term) TV works anymore,” he said. “When I came home the other day, my wife was watching Downton Abbey on Netflix… What do we call that? It’s not TV.”

Sekoff said the company is building a “live, muscular network” that will deliver everything from 15 second newsbites to lengthier stories.

“We let our interviews breathe,” Sekoff said. “As long as it’s interesting we don’t cut it off.” Much of the content is syndicated to other HuffPost properties.

The formulam, he said, has geerated more than 1.3 billion views, all done with a preroll.

“That’s how we’re finding what we’re doing,” he said.

Sekoff said the shift to viewers consuming more media on mobile devices is having a “profound effect on how we’re consuming content and on what content is being created.”

Sekoff said HuffPost Live has seen 310 million comments since launching, 70% of them made in response to another comment.

“People are not just commenting, they’re having conversations,” he said.

Driving that engagement is live content, he said, creating immediacy, flexibility and a “sense of danger.”

“You just can’t have engagement at that level if you’re not live,” he said. “You have to be live so people can join you live.”

The decision to go live, he said, changed everything from who the company hired to the platform and the technology being used.

“It helped us to make engaement just as important as consumption,” he said.

Follow me on Twitter at JimONeillMedia

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