The Huffington Post: A Preliminary Assessment

Arianna Huffington’s much-ballyhooed celebrity blog collective, “The Huffington Post,” is off and running. It’s an interesting project although my initial reservations about it stand.

The offerings so far are a decidedly mixed bag. Jim Pinkerton offers an intriguing post that begins, “You should consider the possibility that everything on this site is a lie.” Jon Robin Baitz, of whom I’ve never heard, writes about nothing in particular. Greg Gutfeld, of whom I’ve also never heard (hereafter OWIHNH), offers a recipe for lemon squares. Jonah Peretti, OWIHNH, enjoins, “Let the madness begin.”

One suspects it’ll get better as the novelty of being able to post wears off and people wait until they have something to say before posting. (Indeed, a 300-author site has that luxury in a way that solo author or small group blogs don’t.)

Howie Kurtz, though, echoes my initial reaction to the endeavor and raises some other red flags.

Dazzle, Yes. But Can They Blog?

Blog mistress is only the latest incarnation for Huffington, who has been a Republican activist (as a GOP congressman’s wife), Democratic activist (she backed John Kerry), Comedy Central bedmate of Al Franken, syndicated columnist, author, anti-SUV crusader and gadfly candidate for California governor (she got 0.6 percent of the vote after a last-minute pullout). She envisions the blog as a big dinner party, with chatter “about politics and books and art and music and food and sex.”

Huffington insists her effort isn’t just about the boldface names; she’s lined up some college kids and a friend’s 11-year-old daughter. “My dream is that we’ll create new blogging stars,” she says.

This strikes me as, frankly, boneheaded. The allure of the site is that it is written by Big Name People. If I’m tuning in to see what Walter Chronkite has to say, I don’t want to have to wade through postings by somebody’s kid.

The best blogs, love ’em or hate ’em, have an unmistakable voice; this will be a cacophony of voices. It’s an open question whether the scribblings of the rich and influential can be as compelling as those of previously obscure people who are now online stars.

Quite right.

On the positive side, as Michelle Malkin notes, Huffington is at least taking the effort seriously.

Her blogroll (as fascinating for its inclusions as its omissions, ahem!) sends a signal that she wants to be taken seriously as a blogger and that she wants the right side of the blogosphere to pay attention.

Further, the blog looks more-or-less like a blog (permalinks, reverse chronological posting, archives), which is a good sign. On the downside, there is no SiteMeter and no trackbacks. No comments, either, but that’s hardly a surprise.

My guess, though, is that the site will do well, at least for a while. It’s certainly going to dwarf mine in traffic just because of the names involved and the media buzz it has created. Ditto, the ability to sell ads. Whether it will find a voice over time and provide readers a reason to keep coming back, though, is yet to be determined.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jack O'Toole says:

    James,

    You’re right, the blog doesn’t appear to have trackbacks. But the news stories (or at least some of them, like today’s piece on Saudi Arabia) do. Strange . . . but I’m sure they have their reasons.

  2. Mark says:

    I eagerly await Walter Cronkite’s chocolate fudge recipe!

  3. notherbob2 says:

    The biggest issue to me is whether or not this new blog is absorbed into the liberal cocoon; that Wonderland where Bush is a liar, every Bush administration move in Iraq and in the GWOT is a mistake or a disaster, and historic facts that do not support current liberal positions simply disappear.

  4. Is it just me, or is the site missing author-specific archives? If I want to follow just David Frum, for instance, there doesn’t seem to be an evident way to do that.

  5. Dougrc says:

    Well, from what I’ve read of Walter Cronkite lately, I’d take the murmurings of an 11 year old juvenile delinquent any day. The “Huffs” blog does reek of Castro’s 40 year old speeches, packaged in the current jargon. Everything is Bush’s fault (i.e. the USA) and conservatives eat babies. They ought to rename it as “The Liberal Meltdown”. The whining is unbearable! What a hoot!

  6. Phil says:

    I just read through the first few posts and I like it. A lot. Corzine had an interesting post. So did Julia Louise Dryfus and her husband, so did Larry David so did (gasp) Ellen DeGeneres. I agree: with 300 people, you have the luxury of waiting to post and that will help. It’s been added to by bookmarks.

  7. Alakh Saini says:

    Dear Mr Gutfeld

    Congratulations on your first posting! Ever!! With regards to your lemon squares problem, simply get one of the girls from the LBB to do them. That way, your problem will be solved instantly!

    I loved you on BBC4’s Cover Sories by the way.

    Kind Regards