Roy Sekoff of HuffPost Live: ‘We Set Out to Expand the Definition of Social TV’

By Adam Flomenbaum 

roy“I wake up most mornings simultaneously terrified and inspired,” Roy Sekoff, President and co-creator of HuffPost Live, told Lost Remote.

Why? Because the TV and digital video landscape is changing at “an almost comically rapid pace,” and HuffPost Live is at the forefront of this revolution.

In just the last year, HuffPost Live, which airs from 10am– 6pm ET, Monday through Friday, has seen 86% growth in video views, 287% growth in page views, and in May, won its second consecutive Webby as the Best News and Information Channel.

Where more and more networks are scrambling to create shorter, bite-sized news segments for shorter, bite-sized attention spans, HuffPost Live is seeing average visits of close to 20 minutes long. Every discussion that takes place on HuffPost Live takes place in real time and covers topics ranging from politics, activism and international news to sports, lifestyle, celebrity and everything in between. It is citizen journalism that mixes the objective with the subjective, and more than 22,500 people from 100 countries have been on-air guests, sharing their opinions and expertise via Google Hangouts.

As HuffPost Live begins year three, Lost Remote spoke with Sekoff about how the ‘network’ exemplifies social TV, its rapid growth, and how social media is changing the nature of news and broadcast journalism.

Lost Remote: How does HuffPost Live exemplify social TV?

Roy Sekoff: We set out to expand the definition of social TV well beyond the notion of TV you can share or tweet about on a second screen. For us, it’s about creating a web and mobile platform for engagement. People are tired of being talked at; they want to be talked with. And this shift from presentation to participation is what fuels HuffPost Live. We’ve put our users front and center in the conversations we are having, speaking out on the issues that matter most to them, on equal footing with our other guests, including newsmakers, celebrities, pundits and experts. Since our launch, over 22,500 people from around the world have joined us live on-air, discussing an eclectic mix of issues and topics. And thousands more have joined the conversation via our interactive social tools. This has given a diverse range of people greater access to the airwaves and furthered the democratization of the media.

LR: How crucial has Google+ been as a partner? 

Sekoff: We don’t actually have a formal partnership with Google; it’s more of a mutual admiration-based relationship.  But we love using Google Hangouts – it’s a wonderful, easy-to-use tool that perfectly fits our social, community-centric approach.

LR: With huge year-over-year growth in terms of video views, page views, and advertiser revenue, what’s next for HuffPost Live?

Sekoff: World domination! Actually, as we head towards our 2-year anniversary, like the rest of the industry, we’re pivoting to make sure we keep pace with the social and mobile revolutions. But we have a different take on things.  It seems like everyone else in the news space has decided that the shift to mobile means that everything they do has to be as short as possible — nothing longer than 15 seconds! In this world, a minute and a half video is considered long form. But over the last 23 months of doing HuffPost Live, we’ve learned that audiences aren’t as ADD as people think. Yes, sometimes they just want a quick 15 second-update while standing in line at the supermarket.  But sometimes they want to go much deeper.  That’s why the average visit to HuffPost Live lasts close to 20 minutes, which is about 5 times the industry average. So, for us, the goal moving forward is to use the same editorial team, working on the same stories, to create a 6 second video, a 15 second video, a five minute video, a 25 minute video, and an 8 hour live streaming experience.

LR: What are the chances that we’ll see HuffPost live on a linear network – or at the very least – as a channel on an over-the-top platform such as Roku?

Sekoff: We are, in fact, already available as a channel on Roku, Boxee, and Apple TV (via the AOL On app).  We’re also available on SmartTV’s like those made by Samsung and Sony. This is definitely an area we plan to double down on as we move forward.

LR: How is social media changing the nature of news and broadcast journalism?

Sekoff: The social revolution is having a profound effect on both the way content is delivered and on the content itself.  Humans are inherently social beings; even with all the distractions our devices provide, we still want to connect with one another.  And we want to have shared experiences around the content we are consuming.  We don’t want to just sit back and have it wash over us.  We want to talk about it, share it, comment on it, add to it… That’s the big advantage of digital platforms – they allow the experience to became a two-way endeavor.