Summary:

AOL’s Huffington Post launches another national edition in tandem with a leading newspaper publisher. But, when it’s not relying on existing local brands, how is HuffPo doing under its own steam against dominant newspaper publishers?

Arianna Huffington

Tuesday’s arrival of L’Huffington Post in Italy follows what is now the established international launch configuration for the brand — partner with a strong, existing local player.

Arianna’s Italian launch leans on La Repubblica publisher Gruppo Espresso, and takes as its editor Lucia Annunziata, a TV host who previously worked at both La Repubblica and the Corriere della Sera.

This was not the approach taken in the UK, where AOL appears to want Huffington Post to work harder, according to the impression given by last week’s Times article.

“We still need to see more agenda-setting and more breaking news,” AOL Huffington Post media group international SVP Jimmy Maymann told The Times.

“Just like Arianna knows everybody on Capitol Hill, we need somebody who knows everyone in Westminster and can bring in stories.

“In the UK, we didn’t go out and hire a local ‘Arianna’ — we went with a promising new talent instead as editor-in-chief.”

AOL says Huffington Post’s UK audience has trebled since the UK site was introduced a year ago, to 4.1 million unique visitors in August, according to comScore.

But the full figures paidContent obtained from comScore show almost half of Huffington Post’s UK audience is still going to the US site…

For its first foray outside North America in mid-2011, Huffington Post did not strike a newspaper partnership deal — as it has done in France and Spain — instead handing editorship to the existing AOL UK content network editor Carla Buzasi.

Prior to AOL, Buzasi had edited or deputy-edited the websites for female lifestyle titles Glamour.com, Marie Claire, and came to AOL to help introduce the MyDaily women’s lifestyle site.

Buzasi now makes regular media appearances, for instance, on ITV’s Daybreak morning TV show sofa. But, whilst Arianna Huffington herself is a famous political commentator, Huffington Post UK’s profile in the corridors of power has been far less so.

Joining launch political editor Chris Wimpress this May, New Statesman politics editor Mehdi Hasan – a regular on politics talk shows like BBC One’s Sunday Politics – joined as HuffPo’s political director.

The site’s masthead places politics below education, sport, tech and trends.

“Our UK and Canadian editions have really been guinea pigs,” Maymann told The Times. “They have told us, shown us, that if we want to have local relevance, we needed a model that was a little bit different.”

Had HuffPo sought the option at the time, it is quite likely that UK newspapers would have rebuffed the suggestion of partnering with it – all of the candidates already have strong commentary brands of their own. UK newspapers have always executed a strong line in robust news commentary of the sort many believe their US peers have not — a gap which Huffington has exploited.

HuffPo UK’s unique monthly visitors count in the UK is eight times smaller than Telegraph.co.uk’s unique monthly browser count, for example. That is admirable in a crowded market, but the conditions may not be equivalent to make HuffPo as big a success elsewhere as it has been at home.

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