Today The Huffington Post launched its web television operation, HuffPost Live, an online news video hub that asks a lot of the watcher compared to the average TV network. As the Huffington Post describes it, HuffPost Live in concept is "a streaming network that would use HuffPost's stories, editors, bloggers, and commenters as its real-time script," wrote HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington in her introductory blog post. In reality, to keep the 12 hour-a-day operation running, the programmers need a lot of user-generated content, which makes less work for The Huffington Post and more from you the viewer. If you are too distracted to keep your attention focused on one browser tab for much more than a minute, you are probably the same type of person who won't want to make the effort it takes to interact with HuffPost Live. Still, even if you're only out for a passive TV-like experience, it still works as some newsy background noise.
The Very Small Television Watching Part
From the layout, it looks like HuffPost Live isn't all about viewing, that passive activity that makes television so appealing to information consumers. The current offering takes up about half the width of the screen, and only a fraction of the length. The video gives the option to expand it to the full screen, but then Internet surfers can't do all that multi-tasking we love to do while we're online. Up top and down below, people can scroll through earlier segments or preview upcoming features.
The actual content comes from Huffington Post bloggers, commentators, or derived straight from the Huffington Post website. So, it's rather self-serving for the Huffington Post. There was an entire segment explaining the Huffington Post homepage, for example. That, however, might be the one aspect that appeals to our television watching sensibilities. Capital New York's media writer Joe Pompeo found the video part a nice filler replacement for cable TV. "As someone who works in an office that doesn't have luxury of TVs tuned to cable news, sort of enjoying the background hum of HuffPost Live," he tweeted. Instead of reading about Shark Week and Paul Ryan, we can sit back and listen, while we do other Internet stuff. But, that isn't the site's defining characteristic.
The Green Rooms: HuffPost Wants You
Even though the basis of the videos comes from already written HuffPost columns, much of the content is user-generated. Take the green rooms, for example, which is what the Huffington Post has called the landing pages for the upcoming segments. There, viewers can not only learn about what they are going to watch in a few moments. But, they can nominate themselves as contributors via that "join this segment" botton. For those upcoming clips, or the current one, viewers enter personal information and perhaps become a guest on HuffPost TV.
Both of these possibilities take effort that regular television watching doesn't. For the learning part, HuffPost Live directs us to "RESOURCES," which includes a description of the guests and links out to related articles, which are all Huffington Post creations, of course. To become a contributor is what Forbes's Jeff Bercovici compares to calling in to a talk radio show. But it takes a bit more effort than that: radio call-in shows rarely ask people to fill out web forms, and being an actual contributor takes more than dialing the phone. HuffPost Live uses Google+ hangouts to bring its people together, which for the HuffPost Live people is an easy and quick way to get someone on web TV. But for you, it means logging into that forgotten Google+ account and figuring out how to use hangouts. Plus being web camera-ready.
The Very Large Chat Box Is More than Just a Chat Box
A lot of the website is taken up by a big chatbox on the right, which encourages conversation among viewers. It works like a commentary live blog of the show we are all watching to the left.But, that's not all that widget does. There people can leave and read video comments or tweets on the topic. The stream scrolls through pretty quickly -- an issue many of the commenters have pointed out. So, it takes concentration to keep up with it, as a reader. Again, that all takes effort.
For someone looking to watch television versions of its articles, Huffington Post Live has that. But, that's not its main thing. In an attempt to be webbier, it has added all these interactive doodads: Green Rooms and hangouts and comments and video comments. But, unfortunately, those Internet things are what make it something ADD web people will hate -- who wants to spend that much time on a website to learn about a news story one could read (or skim) on the Huffington Post website. The Internet people who will like it, however, are those like Pompeo, who can leave the audio on in the background of their web browsing to get the gist of the story. That, however, isn't what make HuffPost Live distinct among Internet, TV or Internet TV news sites.