Arianna Huffington’s thoughts on three megatrends, sleep, and iPhone addiction




Media rockstar Arianna Huffington called INMA the epitome of her view of a ubiquitous, diverse, connected global media combined to do good.

“What you represent here is part of my dream of how the world of media is coming together and partnerships are being formed all around the world and new ways of connecting with each other as we’re headed to 2020 and 3 million more people are joining us online,” she told INMA’s World Congress in New York City on Monday.

The president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group went on to update the crowd with her unique insight on a new digital media age as well as to share some personal details about how she copes with life.

The 90-minute session headlines this 83rd-annual gathering of more than 450 international media executives.

Huffington reiterated several megatrends she considers keys to the current and future media landscape, mixing in personal stories and a quick humour that engaged the sometimes star-struck audience:

1. The move from media simply presenting news to engaging people to participate in it.

“It’s not just about us from Mount Olympus telling people what’s happening in the world,” she said. “It’s about listening. It’s about sharing.

“I think, personally, that this doesn’t mean — in any way at all — the doomsday for traditional newspapers. I’ve never believed that, ever. I think that what we’re seeing is a move to a hybrid tradition where traditional newspapers and magazines are moving more and more online.”

2. The tendency for media to put anything and everything out there regardless of value, to “fetishize the social and viral for their own sake.” This countervailing second megatrend is the “snake in the garden,” as Huffington called it. 

She linked this concept with the negative role technology can play in today’s society. Many people are addicted to technology. So much, in fact, that Huffington pointed out there are hotels where there is purposely no wi-fi, internet devices left at the door simply to escape technology.

Constantly being connected to e-mail and the internet, she said, causes more stress than seen in earlier generations.

“In our hyper-connected world, we are losing the ability to connect with ourselves,” said Huffington, who recounted how five years ago she fainted from exhaustion. She is now on the board of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“For me, it was falling from exhaustion that started me on this journey and start incorporating things in my life. I at least four times a week will do yoga or some kind of form of exercise. I have a completely digital-free zone in my bedroom. I will not take my devices to bed.

“And I bet you ... most of you sleep with your iPhones, right? Not good.”

3. Search is Huffington’s third megatrend — but not in the context usually discussed. People are not just searching for content on the Web — they are searching for meaning, she said.

“We want to provide content that helps people live more meaningful lives,” she said.

Through each of her trends, Huffington shared her ideas on the changing landscape of journalism and media as a whole. Journalism isn’t going away anytime soon, she said, but it’s not going to be the same.

Multiple business models can work in a digital landscape, Huffington said. The free model of The Huffington Post has been wildly successful for her, but may not work for everyone.

“For us, given this ecosystem, we’re always going to be free,” she said. “Others have found success with the paywall, but you just have to look at the payoff.”

That payoff, she said, is the act of paywalls turning away readers, rather than accumulating them in large numbers: “Every big story for us is an incredible opportunity to add readers.”

On the question of what keeps her awake at night that might disrupt her business, Huffington said nothing about her career stresses her that much anymore: “When I lie awake at night, I worry about my daughters.”

Further discussing what she feared would come to dethrone the Huffington Post, Huffington said she wasn’t worried.

“I don’t see my job in competitive terms,” she said. “I really feel that I don’t look over my shoulder to see what others are doing. I think this is very draining. And if I may say so, I think women are beginning to change the way we approach how we run our businesses. The competitive model is very male, you know it’s a kind of macho thing.”

Instead of attempting to be the best by conquering the competition, Huffington said media companies should focus on what makes them unique.

“The bottom line is that we are competing with ourselves,” she said. “Each unique media operation has its own DNA, and we need to stay true to that. And we need to identify what it is.”

Part of that DNA is seeking out the truth. Huffington doesn’t like journalism that looks at both sides and stays in the middle, especially when the truth is known: “I think it is our job to come clearly to one side or the other,” she said.

She used the example of climate change, saying that science has proved its existence and the evidence is all around us. To ignore the known truths in traditional journalistic form is something she isn’t interested in.

The Huffington Post is looking to expand its special brand of journalism across the world, soon to launch in Germany, Japan, India, and with plans for future expansion.  

“We really want to be in every important market in the world,” Huffington said.

Huffington’s presentation came back to her second trend of technology overuse and addiction, with numerous questions from the Q&A portion of the presentation addressing the issue.

“We need to break the idea that to be successful you have to be 24/7 connected,” she said. “It’s completely untrue. And we need to believe that if truly unplug, recharge and renew ourselves, we are going to be more effective.”

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