Traditional media owners are disadvantaged by the fact they “stop moving”, according to The Huffington Post co-founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington.
Launching the digital title’s fourteenth edition, Huffington Post Arabi, with Integral Media Strategies chief executive Wadah Khanfar at an event in London, Huffington said even new media entrants could not afford to keep “innovating”.
“We never rest on our laurels, we are constantly disrupting ourselves. Often the problem with established media companies is that they stop moving, they stop innovating. We are constantly growing and innovating, that is absolutely essential for us,” she said.
Speaking to M&M Global after the launch, Huffington admitted the Arabic site – its first cultural and linguistic, rather than market-based, product – will be its most challenging to date, but she insisted it had found the “right partner” to succeed.
“We believe in partnerships. We believe that, by launching with partners who are deeply knowledgeable about the culture, politics and religion, we are likely to actually to be able to grow an organic understanding of the region,” she said.
In her speech, Huffington addressed the potential problems with launching a pan-Arabic service, notably political and sectarian pressure, and the threat to its journalists. She pledged to use the “full force” of HuffPo’s global presence to draw attention to any persecution of its contributors, and attacked the West’s “unfortunate decisions” in the region, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
However, she said she believes the site’s model provides the ideal approach in a complex region: “So often the region is covered from the outside in; we want to be covering it from the inside out. We want to bring together the best of traditional media – professionalism, context and ethics – with the best of new media. By bringing them together, we can deliver what is urgently needed right now.”
HuffPo chief operating officer Koda Wang told M&M Global that international advertisers were taking a keen interest in the potential audience of Millennials across the Arab world.
Wang added that the site would focus its commercial offering around native advertising, which he said has large scope for growth in the Middle East, as well as the significant potential of online video.