Arianna Huffington at MapQuest party on "frivolous" blogger suit, "useful" Drudge design
Internet years are like dog years, which makes fifteen-year-old MapQuest more like 105. But this old dog can learn directions home if you believe Arianna Huffington, now a player in the old-money empire of AOL, which owns the company headquartered in LoDo. She talked about an absurd range of topics at our request.
Huffington, whose current title is president and EIC of the Huffington Post Media Group, was in Denver Monday night for what felt like a re-launch of the company, which by many accounts has been overshadowed like Alderaan by the Death Star that is Google Maps. But the tie-less execs in the roomy MapQuest offices (naturally, there was a DJ, playing Kanye and Jay-Z) at 1555 Blake Street stress thatthey are thinking like a start-up instead of a pre-bubble-burst dot.com company.
Latest Word sat down with Huffington while she sipped a virgin "Pin Drop" (mint, cucumber, honeydew and passionfruit juice) along with Jon Brod, president of AOL Ventures, and Christian Dwyer, MapQuest's Denver-based general manager.
The following is our interview with the trio, where you can glean a bit about AOL's corporate strategy, HuffPo expansion and why MapQuest is "alive, simple and intelligent" in 2011. And video, more and more video.
Westword: Where do you see the Huffington Post a year from now?
Arianna Huffington: All the AOL sites, including MapQuest, are under the Huffington Post Media Group. We are doubling down on all the sites we are growing. We are adding a lot of video to everything we're doing. We're putting a tremendous emphasis on local. Around Patch and around different sites -- like the Huffington Post is already in Denver, as well as Chicago, L.A. and New York.
WW: Where do you want to expand next?
Mayor Bill Vidal gave Huffington a copy of his book, Boxing for Cuba.
AH: We're looking at San Francisco. They have a lot of Patches. We're putting MapQuest into everything we're doing, whether it's food or art or architecture. Everything you need to know when you go on a trip. We can also offer editorial content to people when they search for restaurants, amusement parks, art galleries on their vacations.
WW: Do you think that the bloggers who blogged for free for Huffington Post deserve any sort compensation in the wake of AOL's acquisition of Huffington Post?
AH: The Huffington Post and AOL are two things: a journalistic enterprise that pays great wages and benefits, and they're a platform. And as a platform, we are basically inviting people who want to blog and who clear the bar of quality, to blog and use that platform to disseminate their ideas, their books, their movies.
WW: Would you consider the lawsuit frivolous?
AH: Yes, definitely frivolous. But it is also contrary to what the Internet is about. Because that's a lawsuit that could be had against Facebook and Yelp. And the New York Times has free bloggers. There's no site online where people don't occasionally blog for free.
Huff whips her back an' fo'th.
WW: How do you explain (conservative-leaning news aggregator and, some say, the reason HuffPo was created) Drudge Report's longevity? A lot of people call it the ugliest site on the Internet, yet it's still around and incredibly successful.
AH: It's very simple: It's one page. At a glance, you can see the news, and that's incredibly useful.
WW: This was submitted by two people on the Internet, and it's embarrassing to ask, but...how do you keep your hair so bouncy?
AH: (Shakes hair) Do I bounce my hair? It's called "Greek peasant hair." It's thick and it's bouncy.