It takes a golden woman to get me out of bed at 5.00 am. And Arianna Huffington is golden, very golden. I caught the 6.30 shuttle this morning down to Burbank, to catch the golden girl live -- speaking at On Hollywood. She didn't disappoint. Dressed in a gold top, the golden haired Arianna glowed this morning in Hollywood.
For those with dirty minds (like me), Arianna delivered glowingly suggestive content. She described new media as being ideal for "threesomes". Mel Gibson, she said, had "legs". While she confessed, intimately, that "for me, it's all about advertising-- unless its porn or weird porn, you don't charge for it."
Her vision of the future of news media glowed too -- at least, if you take Arianna at her word. She wants her Huffington Post to combine the best of traditional and new media. One the one hand, she is hiring top traditional journalists like ex Washington Post writer Thomas Edsell; on the other, she is partnering with NewAssignment, Jay Rosen's worthy citizen media organization, to create a farm-system for the main HuffPo site. All very commendable. She really appears to be combining the authority and experience of mainstream media with the energy and irreverence of the blogosphere.
But there's a problem. And that's Arianna herself. When you scrape all that gold away from HuffPo -- the glamorous columnists, the venture capital investors, the millions of readers -- it's Arianna's online newspaper, written by her friends and distributed under her ubiquitous name. Arianna has become the Randolph William Hearst of the early 21st century, building a media empire inseparable from her own personal brand. Now all we need is Orson Welles to chronicle her meteoric rise and...
At one point this morning, Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal asked Arianna what she would do if she ran the New York Times. Arianna couldn't resist. She launched into an indiscreet attack on Hillary Clinton, suggesting that the Times should have run a real-time fact checker at the recent debate, publicly revealing Hilary's inaccuracies and lies.
And that's the problem with the Huffpo and Arianna. Scrape all that gold away and what you have a woman with a very naked political agenda who is now running one the most powerful media operations in either new or old media. Arianna, naked or otherwise, knows what she wants (certainly not a Hillary presidency) and this immensely ambitious woman is using the Huffpo as a vehicle to pursue her own agenda. So scrape away all that gold and what you see is a new media that is increasingly putting massive power into the hands of contrarians (Huffington, Calcanis, Cuban etc etc). Arianna may be the golden girl of the Web 2.0 movement, but I don't want to hear her version of the news on my iPod, my television, my computer screen and my telephone.