Last night Huffington Post CEO Ken Lerer spoke at the Columbia Journalism School. CJR’s Megan Garber was on the scene, and her tweets from the night—reproduced below in chronological order—give a good flavor of his rather rosy take on the future of journalism. He also ballparks HuffPo’s staff size, gives a hint on whether the enterprise is yet profitable, and reveals why he himself doesn’t blog for the site.
(Late Update: Ooops. Megan, as she points out in comments, wrote a full piece on the event.)
Lerer: No reason why news orgs can’t succeed. “They do not have to compromise their journalism, even as their business model devolves.”
“If digital news is the future, how much of the old system can we—should we—preserve?”
“I’m confident that in a few years, tops, the news landscape will look fundamentally different from what it looks like today.”
“Web reporting is not a sideshow to print journalism; it makes and breaks important news.”
Newspapers never changed their business model “in the transformative way that the new digital world required.”
For too long, newspapers “complacently relied on the mantra, ‘Who wants to read on the *screen*?’”
“Newspapers are in trouble now because … they were run for the world that was. Not for the world that was coming to be.”
When Lerer mentions The Nation’s argument for tax subsidies for papers audience chuckles derisively
For today’s newspapers to succeed, they’ll have to provide their readers more chances to engage and discuss, react and interact.”
Lerer on J-school programs’ evolution: “I think Columbia has to move just like The New York Times has to move.”
“We have turned a profit in some months, and we haven’t in other months. And that’s because we’re now in investment mode.”
Lerer on Consumer Reports, WSJ, etc. charging for content: “I don’t know why” it works for them, he says. “Walled gardens” usually suicidal.
“I don’t think journalism is going to go under, at all.” There will be many people—more than today—practicing it online.
“There’s no question that everything today is now covered as sports or entertainment, regardless of the topic. That’s here to stay.”
“There’s a long way to go for the advertising community to figure out how to best advertise online.” But they will.
HuffPost staff numbers, per Lerer: “5 or 6” paid reporters in Washington and a paid editorial staff of about 25
Lerer on vitriolic reactions to his blog posts: “I blogged once or twice, and I was out….I get hurt feelings very easily.”
Lerer on popularity of 23/6 site: “We have a lot of people who want to blog because they’re funny—or because they think they’re funny.”
“Blogging is no more of a dirty word,” Lerer says. When founded HuffPo, many people saw the venture as a joke. “No longer.”
KL on AP: “I don’t understand the AP’s strategy. I’ve thought about it a lot, I’ve read all the stories. I don’t understand it.”
Lerer: “I’m completely intrigued and obsessed with Internet journalism from the bottom up, from the local up.”