It's going to be a long, hot summer.
In September 2010, I emailed Mario Ruiz, VP, Media Relations of The Huffington Post and asked him who he then considered the competition. "I'd say we view the competition as being comprised of news sites, from CNN.com to NYTimes.com," he responded. Not long after AOL acquired HuffPo and it moved up a weight class, into the serious player territory. The New York Times could no longer ignore its obvious competition. And by mid-September the Huffington Post had poached Times economic writer Peter Goodman to be a business editor.
Since then it's been on like Gray Poupon.
Recently, though, things have been particularly competitive between the two camps. In May, as if to start off the Spring season, Bill Keller, the then Executive Editor, and hater of aggregator sites like HuffPo, launched into an extraordinarily well-written screed against Twitter. He soon found himself no longer Executive Editor. And despite the fact that Jill Abramson, his incoming replacement, has claimed she didn't want to go to war against Arianna Huffington, last Thursday the Gray Lady took exception to HuffPo's claim that they had surpassed them. From Politico:
Blogs were abuzz Thursday with the statistic from Internet traffic tracker comScore that Huffington Post had 35.5 million unique visitors in May compared with 33.59 million at the Times -- making HuffPo by one measure, the top U.S. Internet news provider. Some suggested this was evidence of both a changing of the guard and the effects of the NYT’s move to a metered browsing model several months ago.
AOL executive Brad Garlinghouse tweeted in celebration: 'Comscore: Huffpost passed NYTimes in monthly (US) UV's. 35.5m vs. 33.6m. Six years to disrupt 100 years. nice work team huffpost!'
But Forbes blogger Jeff Bercovici noted the Huffington Post’s achievement should come with a huge asterisk.
'Huffpo’s traffic surge is mostly a function of the site’s integration with AOL, which started in March … AOL.com is now far and away the leading source of referral traffic to Huffpo.
Through May, it accounted for more than 30 percent of Huffpo’s referrals, and 32.6 percent in the week that ended June 4,' he wrote Thursday, basing his conclusion from another Internet traffic monitor, Experian Hitwise.Of course they did. And so it looks like a hyper-competitive atmosphere going forward between the two organizations. Atlantic Wire's Adam Clarke Estes even noted that the "nap room" at AOL/ Huffington Post HQ is better than the one at the Times.
The NYT Co.’s Twitter account quickly retweeted Bercovici’s blog post.
The wild thing of it all is that if you had told any media observer that this would be happening five years ago they would have looked at you as if you had had two heads.