Friday, October 05, 2012

Why I'm addicted to HuffPost Live . . .

The simple reason that I keep logging on to HuffPost Live remains that it is a wildly exciting experiment in webby, social, user-generated media. For anyone who works in tech and new media - like myself - certain concepts and ideas have assumed the place of gospel: make it social, make the user a part of the thing, not an observer of the thing, curate but don't editorialize. HuffPost Live gets this, and embraces it, warts and all.

At our startup, we have people working in numerous locations in the country. The Google + hangout is our conference room. Its not always perfect, you get slowdown, dropped connections and of course, you can hear when the trash trucks pull up just outside my "office" window. HPL's embrace of the hangout is bold, both as an embrace of an imperfect technology, and of tech that more people - both media and tech professionals, and everyone else - are quickly adopting. HPL has its finger in the pulse.

Of course, the big sell with HPL is the participation of the audience, whether as community "pundits" who make their way through the screening process onto one of the discussion hangouts, or via the chatbox and tweet features. The big debate in the world of the user-generated web centers on those who question whether or not the wisdom of the crowd is actually all that wise. HPL's is selective enough, they are curating on air contributors that provide intelligent, broad and passionate discussion. There is a sense that while these people aren't "professional" pundits - like the usual suspects on the cable news shows - they are people who are perhaps more in touch with the nitty gritty of the issues they discuss.

Its not perfect. I am not particularly enamored of the tone of some of the hosts. I don't want to call out anyone in particular, but sometimes you get a sense you are watching college kids who are well versed in the Simpsons/Conan O'Brien school of humor. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but it comes off as distracting and slightly amateurish. millennials probably won't care (for me, electronic music is the Chemical Brothers, not Skrillex, so sort that out). It may be a deliberate effort on the part of the staff to make it fun and young and irreverent. I believe its possible to be serious and intelligent without being elitist and stuffy, but I will admit that perhaps this criticism is based on affectation more than anything else.

When I finally try to get on the air, and hopefully succeed, perhaps I can drop a Family Guy reference. In the meantime, I will watch HuffPost Live with an eye towards its bold embrace of innovation in an industry that desperately needs it. 

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