The online revolution is only beginning, Arianna Huffington said today at IRCE 2011.
The Internet disruption is only beginning as the old ways of doing business no longer work, said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, today at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in San Diego.“I believe that we live in a kind of split-screen world,” she said. “On one side is a world that is dying and the other is the one you inhabit and live online.”
That online world is accelerating at a rapid pace, she said. “Life is moving online at a growing speed,” she said. “And those of us born online have a great opportunity to accelerate all we are doing.”
New businesses will undoubtedly take shape in this new arena, she said. And, undoubtedly, many of those businesses will face intense scrutiny from naysayers. “When the Huffington Post first launched we had a review in LA Weekly that called the site an unsurvivable failure. It compared it to ‘Gigli’ and ‘Heaven’s Gate’ rolled into one,” she said, referring to two infamous movie flops. “That’s the kind of negative reaction that anyone who starts something often gets. My advice is to never let that stop you.”
For those consumers who are accustomed to living their lives online, authenticity resonates, she said. “Putting out press releases doesn’t work anymore. And just putting them online doesn’t work either.” That realization led the Huffington Post to launch sponsored blogs and other sponsor-generated content that provides advertisers a means to engage and interact with consumers in a far more dynamic manner than a banner or display ad allows.
Authenticity and self-expression is also what leads consumers to write and edit Wikipedia entries, update their Facebook status, blog on Huffington Post and, presumably, craft product reviews on retail sites.
“People don’t understand why some people spend time expressing themselves for free,” she said. “But self-expression is the new entertainment. Nobody questioned why someone would spend seven hours sitting on a couch for free. But now they want to spend that time expressing themselves. The explosion of creativity and expression is phenomenal.”
Leveraging consumers’ desire self-expression is one of the keys to the Huffington Post’s success, she said. AOL Inc. bought the site the political news and commentary site for $315 million in March.