Updated: Can HuffPo Pull Off A Double Whammy With A New Video News Service?

Arianna Huffington

Update: HuffingtonPost today (January 23) confirmed details of the story below, as it began to send out official invites to the February 2 launch of the Huffington Post Streaming Network, It also, as we wrote below, launched its French site. [original post below]

Come Monday, we should see the launch of the next chapter in the expansion of the Huffington Post, as its French site goes live in partnership with the Le Monde Group. But adding international editions of the wildly successful news site — the latest of which will be an Italian edition, revealed earlier this week — is just one way that Arianna Huffington and AOL (NYSE: AOL) see the site growing in the months ahead. It is also forging a move into video.

According to a report in Forbes, separately confirmed with a source by paidContent, AOL is planning an event for February 2 in New York to announce the details of a new, 24-hour streaming video site.

The service, according to Forbes, will be called the Huffington Post Streaming Network (HPSN), and it will draw on editors and journalists in the HuffPo newsroom to provide analysis around the news of the moment. HPSN also sounds like it will borrow from the reality TV genre that has been so popular in mainstream television: there will be segments following reporters and editors as they go through the “newsgathering process,” according to the article.

It’s not clear whether producers for the streaming service will also sally forth to create (potentially more-costly) video news reportage in its own right. That’s a route that newspapers and newswires have pursued when building out their online editions — with substantial operations in place at sites like FT.com and the Guardian as well as Reuters running video alongside their written content.

Nor is it known whether this will be a U.S.-only operation or if it will be something that draws on HuffPo’s growing international footprint of publications. They include UK and Canadian editions of the site, with the French site expected to come online on Monday, Feburary 23, and a Spanish edition set to launch in March.

Is there room in the market for more online, news-based video?

HuffPo, for now, doesn’t seem to be addressing that from a consumer standpoint as much as it might be from an advertiser’s point of view: the Forbes piece notes that the move into video is in response to “rising advertiser demand for premium video content”, against which AOL can sell premium-rate, rich-media advertising. That’s an area where the company is hoping to grow its business to shore up display ad revenues that have been hit with the likes of Google and Facebook in the space. Google in its quarterly results reported last week that it had a run rate of $5 billion for display ads in the quarter.

Whether or not the HPSN content will sit as a standalone site, it appears that at least one part of the plan is to edit and post this content where relevant on HuffPo’s verticals: these already have established traffic, and in this way that video can become a vehicle for that premium ad inventory. That main news site is already a massive traffic magnet: its CTO told paidContent last week that it currently attracts 120 million unique visitors per month and 1.7 billion page views.

In the wider market, online video consumption is still growing but seems to be increasing much more for some sites than others: Figures out earlier this week from comScore noted that overall online video viewing only grew by six percent over last year, yet YouTube usage grew by 72 percent in the same period.

Why the rise? YouTube has increasingly been moving into premium content, and is in the process of launching 100 new channels to usher in more of this in its catalog. Entertainment-based video is an area that more portals are hungrily searching to add to their sites, too — witness the reports today that Facebook is trying to woo Vevo away from YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG).

It is worth pointing out that in comScore’s video ranking, there are no straight-news properties listed, although portals like Yahoo’s and YouTube’s also have a significant amount of news video in their catalogs. Just last week, the news group ITN in the UK pointed out that it was the most-watched channel for YouTube in the UK market.

Will news video delivered in the Huffington style also draw in the same kinds of numbers that HuffingtonPost.com has drawn in for its news coverage? We’ll have to tune in to HSPN to find out…

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