HLN Finally Launches a Website To Call Its Own

By Alex Weprin 

HLN’s web presence has long been relegated to a subsection of CNN.com. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, as CNN has one of the strongest digital presences of any news organization. But as the focus of coverage by CNN and HLN have diverged, executives at the company decided that CNN’s sister channel deserved a website to call its own.

Last week, HLN quietly launched HLNtv.com. Scot Safon, the executive VP in charge of HLN, says that the has been in the works for about a year, and is still in “beta.”

“It is like a Broadway show, it is in previews right now,” Safon told TVNewser, explaining that while the look is about right, the site as a whole is still a work in progress. “Where the site is three weeks from now is probably more reflective of what It ultimately will be.”

CNN.com will continue to serve as the publisher of HLNtv.com, though HLN will have editorial control of the site. In August, HLN laid off a number of employees as it changed its editorial structure to more closely align TV and digital production. That new structure results in a web presence that shares a voice with the TV programs, Safon says.

“The same editorial process that drives our television editorial drives our web editorial,” he says. “All of our shows are encouraged to do content, not only from their air, but other content that they think would be interesting to our audience on a digital platform.”

The design  is unusual for a news site, featuring a “top 10” list of stories, with sub-stories and videos embedded in each. There is also a lot more color than one might expect from a news site.

“Our editorial  filter is really about the types of stories that will be what we call ‘must see and must share,’ water cooler sort of stories,” Safon says. “[We thought] we would make the site feel like the place you go for that kind of story.”

As with CNN.com, stories will be updated throughout the day, though the top five or so stories may see more regular updates than other news.

Safon says that they stumbled upon a new type of story for the site: one that incorporates feedback from HLN viewers on social media platforms. The example Safon gave was a story posted after GOP candidate Herman Cain‘s recent interview on the channel with Robin Meade.

“We not only had Robin’s interview, and then some coverage of the story itseld, we also had this piece covering the reaction from the public that we were seeing to that story,” Safon says. “Cover the conversation, we are making that an important part of what we are doing on all the major stories.”