Under the dynamic and attention-grabbing leadership of Arianna Huffington, the Huffington Post led the spectacular rise of native digital news, partly thanks to a legion of unpaid bloggers. By 2012 it had also snagged a Pulitzer, but in the fickle new media world the excitement and – according to reports – US traffic is now shifting towards sharp-elbowed, freshly financed upstarts like BuzzFeed, Vice or Vox.
Jared Grusd, the 40-year-old new chief executive poached from Spotify four months ago, may need some of the stamina of his ironman triathlon training to maintain HuffPo’s reputation as a pack leader while keeping up with the relentlessly energetic Huffington, who remains president and editor-in-chief. At his first sit-down interview since taking charge, Grusd explains that HuffPo’s future will be global and played out in a new, largely mobile era he has dubbed “post-social”.
Key to this is the changing role of social media sites like Facebook from places where people share news, to ones where they consume it. “Companies like Facebook and Snapchat are saying: ‘We have already attracted one billion people in the world to our platform. Rather than refer them back to your site, we actually want to keep them’,” says Grusd, flanked by Huffington and 27-year-old operations supremo Koda Wang after announcing the next stage of its global expansion plan in Madrid. “So post-social is, in many respects, coming full circle to where we began in the old days when people would go to AOL and Yahoo and you would just consume all your content on their portals.”
While some fear online news will be monstered by Facebook, which will demand an ever larger slice of advertising revenue, Grusd insists the change is good for HuffPo, saying it “gives an opportunity to reach audiences on a scale we have never seen before”.
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