Le Huffington Post: Think local to build a global news product

The French Huffington Post [HuffPost] launched in January 2012, in partnership with the iconic French daily Le Monde with a simple deal: Le Monde takes charge of advertising and administration; the HuffPost provides the technology, and a new team of journalists focuses on content.

With a five-year anniversary around the corner, Le Huffington Post has established itself in the French media landscape, attracting 4,1 million unique visitors a month. Most of the French audience had never heard of the HuffPost before its launch, according to Ackermann.

“The biggest majority of our readers probably thought that there was something strange about that name, but now they think of us as a French media,” he told the World Editors Forum. While his team works closely with the global parent company, he emphasizes that it’s very much an independent media site.

Easier said than done.  

Q: How much of your content is original vs. curated from international counterparts?

A: We take at most 10 per cent of our content from international HuffPost editions. We talk about people and issues in France that probably nobody cares about in the rest of the world. When you work in a global news organisation, you really notice just how country-specific news is. If I see the German HuffPost, maybe only five percent of it interests me. For the rest, I don’t even know who they’re talking about.

Q: What type of content do international editions take from your French edition?

A: Our coverage of, for example, the terrorist attacks in Paris or the refugee crisis is often way too French – hence too specific for international editions. So they may take it but rewrite it. The other editions do their own breaking news because ours goes too fast to translate. At HuffPost, we use translators, but it’s an expensive and slow – on a web scale – process. Translations take at least half a day, so you cannot do breaking news. But when we have a good blog about French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, for example, the international editions take it. In general, the content sharing involves more magazine-style articles.

Q: How do you communicate with other HuffPost teams?

A: Most of our conversation happens on Slack. We have two or three channels – for international videos, news and editors-in-chief – where we discuss what we’re working on. For example, last week we used it to discuss the death of Jacques Chirac. We also meet physically twice a year, often in Europe, which is easier for everyone to attend. This year we will meet in Milan – next month. Arianna will be there to say goodbye, but she won’t join any strategic meetings.

Read the full interview in WAN-IFRA’s blog.

WAN-IFRA is a member of FIPP.

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