Aleks I'd like to take a step now towards politics. You mentioned the election erm obviously the Huffington Post was erm a very important news source during that period. Erm, of course, the very first question in the Obama presidency was directed to a Huffington Post reporter, which must have been quite an exciting moment, erm not only for social media in general, and new media in general, but, but for you. How did it feel when you when the first question was asked of the Huffington Post reporter?
Arianna Erm, when erm it wasn't the first question of the press conference, but it was erm a question asked of Sam Stein, our White House correspondent, during the presidents first press conference. And I felt that it was really an acknowledgement by the President and the administration of the maturing of new media, I don't think it was just about the Huffington Post. I think it was really erm an acknowledgement of the role that new media had played in the election of Barack Obama, I mean I, I would argue, that were it not for the Internet Barack Obama would not be President, it wasn't just because of the new media, it was about the way that he used the Internet, erm to fund raise, to organise, erm to really break through, just the traditional ways of doing politics. So, in that sense he wanted to demonstrate that he was also going to govern differently, and that's been harder than erm than he and we thought. And erm there are still many attempts being made you know to have a, erm a White House website that erm is much more transparent, erm to continue using the millions of people that have come together during the campaign, to organise for legislation, its still not at all what it can be, but there are different ways to govern, that are being tried right now.
Aleks Which steps would you take, personally, if you were in charge of the new media strategy, at the White House, to erm to erm to gather that potential group together, those millions of people that supported him on-line?
Arianna Well here's what is so interesting about that. Erm you can't really galvanise people without a clear message. Its not just a faction of technology it's the combination of message and technology. And because the Presidents message, around lets say the health care debate has been ambiguous as he himself considered, it's been much harder to organise around it. Because if you don't have a particular plan, but multiple plans, then its hard to say to people go and knock on doors, go have erm, erm parties and bring people together to campaign for the election of Barack Obama, yes, that's obvious, erm the passage of work. Erm a plan with a public option, a plan without a public option, a plan with co-ops, a plan with erm insurance reform, you know, so that has demonstrated the, the sort of weakness or organising around an ambiguous message. At the same time, erm you see the conflict between transparency, which is an essential part of new media, and an administrations desire erm to keep decisions made behind locked doors, and not really be as transparent as the administration had arguably would be during the campaign.
Aleks Well it's interesting that you say that, because one of the themes of this particular programme is the emergence of hierarchy by a new media. And I'm wondering how you feel, whether, whether you feel that, that new media, that the Internet, that this very open platform still the hierarchy emerges. You know you have gatekeepers who may galvanise me, you know galvanise a public through messages, or erm they may be needed to, to gather people together. What do you think about the hierarchy's that have emerged on the web?
Arianna Well that's a great question, I mean we see what's happening with Wikipedia, Wikipedia is now going to have a sort of layer of editors. Erm I believe in editors, I believe erm that erm the, the hybrid future that I'm envisioning is going to include millions of voices, but is not going to eliminate editors. In fact editors will be more important than ever in terms of erm, erm sifting through these voices. Now the editors are not all going to be erm professional editors, they can be editors whom the community has erm designated as editors, who have earned the trust of the community. But what is so different now, is that for the first time, erm what is being debated is not being dictated by hierarchy erm at the top of a newspaper or erm a television erm, erm operation, but is really being much more organic in terms of what is on people's minds and what they care about, and what they're passionate about.
Aleks Some might argue though that the Huffington Post itself has emerged as one of the new gatekeepers, through the aggregation, through the investigative journalism that your beginning to fund, how would you respond to that?
Arianna Well I would say that we are putting an enormous amount of effort and resources into citizen journalism. Our new project of Izaniers for examples is erm is, is every day are putting erm questions and raising issues with our community, which is now about 23 million people, and which is very active and very engaged. And erm and we get tremendous information coming from that. Erm at the same time we see in with erm new erm tool that we introduced, called Social News that in conjunction with Facebook. Erm that we are creating a kind of digital water cooler, where people can see at a glance what they're friends are reading, what they're friends are commenting on, and they're friends can see what they are reading, although there is also a stealth function so that if you are reading something you don't want your friends to see, you can actually click the stealth function and then you can read in peace and without anybody knowing. But that is another new way to interact around news, because people don't want just to consume news, they want to engage with news, they want to sort of talk back, and erm and give they're own opinion around what they are reading.
Aleks Erm one of the criticisms of information on the web, and how people gather on the web is that they, they gather in order to erm confirm they're own opinions, that there's almost a cyber balkanisation as it were, and I'm wondering how you feel about that, do you envisage that people will simply seek out that information, they come to the Huffington Post for a particular type of information. Erm they go to the Drudge Report for another type of information. What effects do you see that having in the future on how we consume, and in fact the social effects on our attitudes and opinions?
Arianna Well at the Huffington Post one of our big editorial goals, is to get beyond the right left way of looking at the work. We welcome different opinions, we challenge the way that term journalists refer to what's happening in terms of right versus left, and we argue consistently that the big issues of our time cannot be seen through the right left prism. Let me give you some examples. Afghanistan, erm you can no longer say either in England, or in the States, that those who oppose our erm military engagement in Afghanistan are on the left. George Will, one of our most conservative commentators has recently come out and said that American troops should leave Afghanistan. So those who continue to look at this issue through that prism are really stuck in a paradigm that's obsolete. Erm health care, why are you supposed to be on the left if you want some form of, of universal health care. There are many, many businesses that recognise that without some form of universal health care they're own health care costs are increasing to the point where they're going bankrupt. Erm Wall Street, there are many editorials in the Wall Street Journal that argue against what has happened with erm the bail out of erm firms like Goldman Sacks and City Group that are now making multi million dollar profits, while still receiving tax payer guarantees. And those who believe in free markets know that's not free market capitalism. Erm that's basically a form of Oligopoly, where the government picks winners and losers and where you socialise erm losses and privatised gains. So you know what I'm saying, there's a hugely fascinating erm re-examination of erm the biggest issues of our time and how we approach them, and to keep looking at them through right versus left or this is a right wing side or is it a left wing side, is to really miss the ferment that's going on at the moment.
Aleks And additionally erm some people may say that the new media's challenging this notion of nations even, you know the idea that whether we're looking right versus left or whether we're simply saying that this is the U.S. perspective or the U.K. perspective. Do you see new media, do you see the Huffington Post as dealing with a, dealing with an international audience, dealing with an audience that's engaged at a different level than say people who are in the United Sates?
Arianna Well of course that's in the nature of the technology, that erm we can reach people anywhere, and its actually really wonderful when our bloggers erm will often write to me and say, I can't believe that you know my high school teacher who now lives in Australia has read my blog and I reconnected. And that's of course, one of the most exciting things about the web, the fact that you don't know who you are communicating with and how far they are. Erm, they, they are brought right next to you, erm because of, of the way we can now communicate.
Aleks Those aspects though that you mentioned before of the social media, the transparency, the accountability, the immediacy, some may even argue that those are erm those are very American points of view, that it's a, that it's a western idealism, that's in fact being pressed out across the web for you mentioned Iran for example and how they've locked down the web, or China, that's a big stories about how they've locked down the web. Do you see a problem with this notion of the American imperialism and these, these ideals being spread out or do you think that you know how do you feel about them?
Arianna I think that everyone will benefit from them, the spread of transparency, immediacy and accountability through the web, I think these are forces definitely for good. And erm that's why so many totalitarian regimes are resisting them. And erm and doing everything they can, and sometimes its pretty complicated to block the, the free flow of information on the Internet.