Old media mainstay The Guardian may have broken the phone hacking story at the heart of the News Corp. scandal. But AOL editorial chief Arianna Huffington says new media played a “huge part” in bringing the company down so fast.
Speaking at the National Press Club Friday with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Huffington said she was in the U.K. last week, launching the company’s new British website, when the News of the World’s “utterly disgusting” tactics ignited a firestorm around the world.
She said she watched as the hashtag #NOTW spread across thousands of Twitter accounts, pressuring advertiser after advertiser to abandon the Rupert Murdoch-backed tabloid.
"I stopped counting at No. 39 because I thought that was probably going to be enough, and it was," she said.
While Huffington may be a pioneer in that kind of new media, she has been criticized by for encouraging news aggregation practices that heavily lift content from the original work of other news outlets.
This week, her news site was enmeshed in a scandal of its own when it suspended a reporter for taking aggregation too far.
None of the questions posed to Huffington focused on that decision. But surrounded by a crowd of Washington, D.C.’s finest news professionals, she said the future of journalism is a "hybrid" model that combines the best values and techniques of old media and the most effective and engaging tools of new media.
That the company has more than 1,300 professional journalists on the payroll is testament to its commitment to the discipline, she said.
In explaining AOL’s renewed focus on content, Armstrong said it’s a “bet on the human need state.”
Despite the proliferation of websites offering news content, he said the majority of Internet users use fewer than 30 sites and about 50 percent of people use around 10 to 14 sites.
“Consumers are going to demand the best, highest quality brands in the information and journalism space,” he said. “And the companies that do that best are going to be the most successful.”