Two major online news outlets announced changes to their websites on Monday 14th March 2011.
The Huffington Post announced a raft of new journalists, a commitment to staff volunteering and the final elements of integration with AOL, who bought the news website for $350 million in February. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has taken a leaf out of the Huff’s book, creating a more involved commenting policy aimed at increasing reader interaction.
Both are attempts to ride an unsettling wave of innovation within journalism which has seen a significant proportion of news titles take their online news products to a subscription model, because of unsustainably low online advertising values.
At the Huffington Post Media Group, Patch.com has been extended to two new neighbourhoods in New Jersey,. Its hyper-local content will soon be featured within the HuffPost. AOL.com & HuffPost will feature a reciprocal “Most Popular Articles” widget, headlining the most popular articles and blog posts from HuffPost and AOL. The Huffington Post will be Devil-enabled, and a Project Devil ad will become immediately visible.
Over at the Washington Post, the enhanced comments system allows each Post article, column or blog to feature and highlight the top commenters. While commenting is open to everyone, Washington Post editors and staffers will select commenters based on the quality of previous posts, and invite them to take part in open fora. Readers can also request to participate in these discussions.
The updated website also features a new blog powered by Tumblr. “@Innovations” invites readers to experiment with The Washington Post’s latest digital projects such as “Recession Road,” where reporters and users use crowdsourcing to capture the recession with photographs from their mobile devices.
The latest innovations attempt to make the most of the technology available to online news outlets and maximise the efficiencies afforded by the online environment. AOL’s investors certainly liked the idea, it remains to be seen whether readers and advertisers will concur.