As was expected, the UK version of AOL‘s social news behemoth The Huffington Post has gone live today with the main focus of its frontpage being the current News Of The World phone hacking scandal. It is the first international edition of the social news site outside of North America, and the first of 12 launches this year for the company.
Arianna Huffington opens the site with an introduction and love letter to the Britain, whilst other high profile contributors including comedian Ricky Gervais, MP Zac Goldsmith, Alastair Campbell, Sarah Brown, and the US Ambassador to the UK Louis Susman. More interestingly is a piece by Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, a man who’s independence from big media interests is currently being questioned with regard to his oversight of the News Corporation proposed take-over of BskyB, and being a contributor to a highly funded media property probably won’t help deflect such accusations. Moreover, whilst Conservatives he and Zac Goldsmith are published, there is no such publication of articles from either of the other two main parties in the UK – a possible sign that whilst being a centre-left publication in the US, it looks to be a centre-right publication in the UK.
Following the US model that found such success, The Huffington Post UK offers a broad mix of breaking news from bloggers on the ground, attention-grabbing hyperbolic headlines, heavy use of multimedia content, and deep social media integration. Stylistically it is very much like the Daily Mail’s website, but with more of a focus on news and politics. It also links out to other AOL properties for coverage on other topics – such as TechCrunch and Engadget for technology, and Parentdish for lifestyle.
The big question remains of the Huffington Post is the role of unpaid bloggers making up a large proportion of their content. The fees that the celebrity bloggers are paid are not disclosed, but it is yet unclear how well British bloggers will take to working for free for a multi-billion dollar US company.
(Full disclosure: TechFruit is part of the curated news platform The Descrier, that will at launch compete in part with The Huffington Post ).