Transcript: Arianna Huffington on We Are Drowning in Data and Starved for Wisdom

Great, we’ll start with a question from Twitter. What do you think is the future for online content creation?

Arianna Huffington: Well, the future is incredibly bright. I think what’s happening now is that we are all content creators. It’s not just publishers who are content creators, anybody can be a content creator whether you’re a student and entrepreneur or a brand. In fact, brands increasingly now have entire departments that are about content creation and we were talking earlier backstage about native advertising. For us at the Huffington Post, native advertising has become a major source of monetization. And what we are finding is that we have a separate department, separate from editorial. But informed by the same beliefs and standards that creates contents for brands. We, for example, made a very profitable deal with Sleep Number, which is a mattress company with embedded technology. And we have a dedicated section, it is transparently labeled as a sponsored section. But again, as we were discussing backstage, that doesn’t stop people from wanting to consume the content, provided the content is good, credible, and well produced.

Question-and-answer session

Audience: Hi, Arianna. Thanks so much for joining us. There is an article out today in the New York Times playing on the growing wealth disparity in this country that also says that the richest people in the United States far outlive the poorest people. This is not necessarily new but that gap is widening. Part of the reason for this is stress and unhealthy living habits. And so I wonder what you’re doing as you’re promoting this message of wellness, including sleep, that there are a lot of people who can’t partake in, and that’s not accessible to them. So how do we make sure that we’re not just continuing to grow this divide where those of us in this room get to be healthy and happy and wealthy and there are a lot of people who don’t experience those benefits?

Arianna Huffington: That’s a great question and, in fact, I tried to cover this in the book. And two weeks ago, we held a clinic in Harlem. We took over a church and invited people from the community to come in. And we had a group of doctors, Dr. Oz actually filmed it and it was an entire hour on his show last week, to talk about their health and their sleep specifically. And what is fascinating is that the delusions that we talked about, that permeated the top, have actually permeated also the bottom socio-economic class and unfortunately with even worse information being given to them. Like I talked to multiple people. Most of them significantly overweight and a lot of them suffering from diabetes. And we’re talking about people in their 30s and 40s. And most of them told me the same story. I have two jobs, I have three jobs, I sleep for four hours a night. And I really blame myself everyday because I’m exhausted. And they thought that if they were a Wall Street high flyer, they wouldn’t be exhausted. So that’s how they had interpreted our delusion.

And when you sort of ask more questions, what would happen, let me just give you a one story. This was a woman in her early 30s, was a pastry chef and a babysitter. And she said I would come home after my jobs and that was my time to watch my shows. So that was like her reward and what she didn’t realize is that she was short changing herself of the one thing that was freely available and that she desperately needed, and that was sleep. So sometimes, she said, I would watch for four hours and then fall asleep with the TV. Then the TV would wake her up and then she said I would be so tired. But yet I couldn’t go back to sleep so I would go and have something sweet to eat. So the vicious cycle was perpetuated. So there’s a lot that needs to be done. You know, we need to raise minimum wage, we need to deal with the dangers of technology taking away so many jobs for that people are being retrained. There is a lot we can do. Sleep alone is not going to solve all of these problems.

But here is something which is freely available that would dramatically change the health equation and the resilience of people who are struggling. And so that’s definitely part of the campaign that we are running now, which is focusing on these groups and on colleges. And the reason we are focusing on colleges, we’re doing sleep fairs in 100 colleges, is because this is the generation, it’s your generation that’s going to change the culture. And so, in this league first, we are, as well as giving a lot of free things that make sleep easier, including pillows, let’s say sleeping our way to the top. And we also are offering, which are available at Stanford all this week, free Uber rides at night by Toyota. All you have to do is put the promo code in, if you’re a Stanford student it’s ToyotaSafetySU. And Toyota is offering this because they’re partnered with Uber and The Huffington Post in underlining the dangers of drowsy driving.

And because what’s happened, again part of the culture with drunk driving, we’ve kind of won the battle. The numbers are going significantly down because people are much more reluctant to get behind the wheel when they are drunk. But not when they are drowsy, the numbers are going up. So it was 1.2 million crashes last year and 8,000 deaths. So we have a PSA about it, Travis Kalanick and I on tomorrow. We are doing ride alongs with Uber drivers, so you can actually request us, you can — the promo code is –

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By Pangambam S

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