The head of AOL Europe, Kate Burns, says that the newly launched Huffington Post UK has no competitor. Really? Let’s ignore the over-served national newspaper market here in the UK for a minute and focus on the aggregation plus blogger network model of the Huffington Post. While Burns points out Rue89 as one of the European competitor, she conveniently overlooks the Guardian’s Comment is Free here in the UK. Both sites were inspired by Huffington’s success in the US and roughly follow the same model although adapted for their markets. Beyond that, the Telegraph has a blogger network, MyTelegraph, that allows anyone who wants some space to air their views.
It is interesting to see that HuffPo UK is going a bit up-market compared to its US model. For a US transplant in the UK like me, the US HuffPo always has felt like the bastard offspring of the Indy’s opinion page crossed with the Mail’s skin-tastic, pap-driven parade of c’lebs. Plenty of American friends have taken to complaining that it’s the skin that wins when it comes to HuffPo’s page views. It has toned down the celebrity sidebar for the UK homepage, probably in no small measure that the UK is not only over-served in quality national dailies but has a veritable smorgasbord of ethically challenged tabloids. One tab recently criticised Pippa Middleton for allowing its dwarf photographer to take an upskirt shot. (No, I’m not going to link to it even if I could find it. Yes. I’m being completely serious.)
I’m still wondering just what HuffPo adds to the UK market apart from a new outpost in its namesake’s global ambitions. AOL’s display ad sales are starting to rebound, but it’s pouring money into its local project, Patch, with growing evidence that it’s a money pit with no prospect of becoming a money maker. It’s on a high-salary hiring spree in the US as Arianna has opened a second front to Rupert Murdoch’s first against the New York Times. One thing is certain, with the BBC, The Daily Mail and The Guardian launching in the US and the HuffingtonPost launching here in the UK, cross Atlantic competition is definitely heating up. The big question is whether the ad dollars will follow or be spread thinner than ever.