So people began to see the power of blogging and the power of just expressing an opinion, having it up immediately. We had, from the beginning, our comments were pre-moderated, because I wanted to keep a civil environment and avoid ad hominem attacks. Because I felt like I was inviting these people to come to my home and express their views, and I owed it to them that nobody was going to suddenly start trashing them. And we had very little money, we started the Huffington Post with $2 million, which I collected from my friends, and my partner, Kenny Lerer, collected. Actually, my first investors were Laurie and Larry David and when they got divorced they split the Huffington Post investment. And so I remember paying my daughter’s $5 each to moderate comments, they were in their early teens. And basically we used everything we could to create from the beginning a civil environment in which these people would want to return. And probably the breakthrough moment was when — who was the identity of Deep Throat was revealed. Do you remember that?
And Nora Ephron was in high demand; everybody wanted her to tell her story. What did she know, when did she know it, because at the time she was — because she had been married to Carl Bernstein. And so she calls me up and says, you know what, I don’t want to go to CNN and get on a makeup and I don’t want to have to bother with a New York Times op-ed, I’m sending you my blog. So the fact that Nora Ephron chose this new platform to write something, which was then everywhere, made people realize that if it was something that was newsworthy, they could write in the Huffington Post, and then it would be everywhere anyway. CNN and the New York Times and everybody would be compelled to link to it, because that was the only way to get the story.
So that was when we really kind of arrived in a way, in terms of people coming to us to write, and that has remained kind of a big passion of mine. Recruiting people, interesting voices, in fact, I want to invite all of you to write on the Huffington Post, and I always make it super easy by giving you my email address so you can email it to me directly. Now, we give people we trust passwords, so you can post directly, and then our editors, front page and social, and we translate the best, so my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s one of the good things when you found a company you get a good email address. So we are now up to 100,000 bloggers and our goal is get to a million. We’re creating a lot of new technology that will make it easier to post and to navigate the site, etc.
Interviewer: Good luck getting sleep after 500, 600 people email you their blogs. But before we move on, just on the point of the platform, given that it was always meant as this medium for anyone to share their opinion and voice pretty much unfiltered. What led to the decision to share your name with it, knowing that your personal reputation will be associated with the material posted on the website, and how, if at all, has that affected the curation process?
Arianna Huffington: Well, I was always, like all in. There was never any question of separating myself from the Huffington Post. I have to say that my daughters begged me not to call it the Huffington Post, because they thought it was just going to be an embarrassing failure and they would not be able to show their faces at school. So I remember tearful moments with Christina and Isabella saying you can’t call it the Huffington Post, that’s so embarrassing. And Isabella, my younger daughter, announced that she will never blog, and she hasn’t. And so that, for me, it was all like saying, I’m all in. This is it. And curation though has always been a very important part of it, like from the beginning even though the platform was open we have ground rules, like we will not publish conspiracy theories. Like if you think 9/11 was an inside job, we’re not going to publish it on the Huffington Post. We’re not going to publish cookie medical theory. So we create a set of boundaries, that you may disagree with people who are writing but it’s not going to be because they are insane.
Interviewer: It’s always helpful, a good boundary to have in life in general. So, some of your recent books lament the lack of surprise in the modern world and yet, I know that this is a reason from the fact that an online content is filtered based on preexisting preferences. So how would you think through the fact that some platforms similar to Huff Post are responsible for creating this bubble effect and kind of narrowing our preferences? And are you thinking of ways to introduce serendipity again online as browsing once did?
Arianna Huffington: Well, right now actually, what is happening is that the majority of people don’t receive that information by going to a destination but through social. Even the Huffington Post, which is probably the last big destination site, gets now the majority of our traffic through social, through people posting something that they’ve read on the Huffington Post, on Facebook, or tagging their friends. So this is kind of a revolution in how we create a site. I tried to convince friends of mine, for example, who are starting a new business and are investing a lot of money in their website, how useless that is.