She’ll huff and she’ll puff, and blow the digital media house down

The Guardian carries a gushing profile by Dan Sabbagh of the Huffington Post‘s dynamic UK editor-in-chief and standard bearer for the iPad generation of young media professionals. That pretty much sums up the way in which former Condé Nast lifestyle editor Carla Buzasi is portrayed in an article in which there is a notable absence of journalistic critique of the world’s best-known pseudo-blog. We are talking here of a clickthrough cash cow which netted its founder some $315m when she sold the title to AOL, and which pays its writers nothing whatsoever. Media ethics, and respect for journalistic integrity and intellectual property? Whatever.

The Huffington Post is the quintessential vanity publisher for the digital age, and its business model pure genius. Money for old rope, money for young gobbiness. It even portrays itself as a news channel. A news channel without journalists. And with comment journalism across the board degenerated into a rhetorical beauty contest for the culturally illiterate, “HuffPo” takes it a step further, with before and after reader voting on dumbed down polarised ‘debates’…

“A recent example asks: ‘Is Iran A Nuclear Threat To The West?’ with Paul Flynn MP saying no and Toby Greene, who works for the pro-Israel lobby group Bicom, saying yes. Press all the buttons and it turns out that Flynn changed the minds of 3% of readers. Later I ask what HuffPo stands for and Buzasi offers ‘debate and opinion’; a new digital ad campaign will feature the phrase ‘the conversations start here’.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has a lot to answer for. Bring back Fleet Street and Lunchtime O’Booze!