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A brief history of the Huffington Post

February 07, 2011|By David Sarno, Los Angeles Times

Started in May 2005, the Huffington Post was co-founded by Arianna Huffington and former AOL executive Kenneth Lerer. The founders aimed to position it as the liberal answer to Matt Drudge's Drudge Report, the popular conservative news site that gathers headlines from around the Web.

Initially, the site drew on Huffington's rolodex of A-list celebrities and high-powered friends, soliciting early contributions from the likes of Larry David, Diane Keaton and Alec Baldwin. But soon the site opened its doors to a much larger stable of bloggers from across the political and cultural spectrum. None of the bloggers were paid, but many thousands of posts were contributed, and the site became a pioneer at enticing writers to work online for free in exchange for the potential for wide exposure.

At the same time, the Huffington Post built its speed and strength as a news "aggregator," sniffing out items from thousands of sites across the Web and posting links to articles that fit its left-of-center editorial approach. And it mixed in a generous helping of celebrity gossip to keep readers coming back.

Because the Huffington Post — or HuffPo, as it's frequently called — has often borrowed and reposted portions of articles from other outlets, it has been criticized for luring traffic away from traditional news outlets and contributing to an environment in which online news has been less profitable than the news business had hoped.

But the site demonstrated that collecting headlines from many sources can be a service that many readers appreciate, as it helps them sift through the roiling sea of online news. Since the Huffington Post was established, many other sites have popped up to aggregate news in technology, media, sports and other topics, and a boutique industry of news aggregation has risen and prospered.

The company has said that by providing links to the articles it excerpts, it is sending readers back to the original outlets.

As the website has grown, it has hired a group of its own reporters, columnists and investigative journalists to produce original journalism in addition to the items it aggregates.

On Sunday it agreed to be purchased by AOL Inc. in a deal that will bring together all editorial content from both companies. || Related article: AOL to buy Huffington Post for $315 million

david.sarno@latimes.com

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