Huffington Post goes local (and the press doesn’t like it)

By now you’ve heard that the enormously successful Huffington Post has launched a local clone in Chicago. It’s what I call a local information aggregator and something I have recommended to clients for years.

The home page is typical Huffington Post, only this one contains a chilling headline just to the right of the lead:

Huffington Post Chicago

So Huffpo Chicago rises, while the Tribune sinks, and this has not escaped the attention of the institutional press. In Philadelphia, Will Bunch wonders if his city will be next.

There is one huge problem with the model, however. With all its unfair built-in advantages, Huffington Post Chicago could actually help push one or even both of Chicago’s daily newspapers — both struggling mightily for different reasons — right to the brink of extinction. And if that happened, HPC would ultimately be shooting itself in the foot. If the Chicago Tribune disappeared, so would half of the actual news the Huffington Post now highlights.

In other words, the Huffington Post and the newspapers need each other. I can understand why there’s an initial wait-and-see attitude, and I have no idea what the specifics of coöperation might be. But if HPC does well, I think either Sam Zell or Arianna Huffington needs to pick up the phone and say, “We need to talk.

Or Sam Zell could just launch his own version. Local media companies have such an aversion to even acknowledging their offline competition that the idea of being together online is anathema. Meanwhile, they open the door to entrepreneurs like Ms Huffington, who isn’t bound by such nonsense.

As the Kingston Trio used to sing, “When will they ever learn?”

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