86. How Arianna Huffington Started the Huffington Post and Became One of the World’s 100 Most Influential People
Arianna Huffington is an author, columnist, and businesswoman. She was a co-founder of The Huffington Post and the founder and CEO of Thrive Global. She is also the author of fifteen books. Time Magazine named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and she built a business she sold for $315 million.
In today’s episode, we’ll explore how Huffington became so successful in her entrepreneurial journey. We’ll discuss the tectonic shifts she leveraged and other secrets to her success.
Huffington’s Entrepreneurial Story
Early Life and Career
Arianna Huffington was born on July 14, 1950, in Athens Greece. At the age of 16, she moved to England. She studied at the University of Cambridge and earned an economics degree(Source: Britannica.com).
After she finished her education and lived in England and a few other places, Huffington moved to the U.S. and became involved in politics, writing books and articles, appearing on several radios and tv shows, and speaking at conventions (Source: Wikipedia.org).
In 2005, Huffington co-founded the Huffington Post. When the site launched, “it was structured as a group blog, publishing the words of hundreds of guest contributors each week.” AOL acquired the Huffington Post in 2011 for $315 million, and Huffington became “President and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, a new venture that included all the content from the Website and AOL.” (Source: Britannica.com) In 2012, the website became the first commercially run United States digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize (source: Crain’s New York). In June 2015, Verizon Communications acquired AOL for US$4.4 billion and the site became a part of Verizon Media (source: PR Newswire).
To launch her new enterprise, Thrive Global, Huffington left AOL and the Huffington Post Media Group. Thrive Global offers science-based solutions to end stress and burnout (Source: wikipedia.org).
Huffington said, “After my collapse from sleep deprivation and exhaustion in 2007 I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and performance. And as I went around the world speaking about my experience, I saw two things: First, that we’re facing a stress and burnout epidemic. And second, that people deeply want to change the way they work and live . . . That’s why I launched Thrive Global — to go beyond raising awareness and create something real and tangible that would help individuals, companies, and communities improve their well-being and performance and unlock their greatest potential. At Thrive Global, helping you achieve these goals is our mission and our passion.” (Source: thriveglobal.com)
“Too many of us leave our lives — and, in fact, our souls — behind when we go to work.”
– Arianna Huffington
Tectonic Shifts Leveraged
Here are some of the tectonic shifts Huffington used to achieve her success.
The Huffington Post uses user-generated content, in the form of guest blogging, for much of its content. Guest blogging happens when someone publishes their article on a blog or online publication that they don’t own or regularly contribute to. Guest blogging usually comes with building brand awareness, strengthening credibility, or showcasing expertise for the writer.
“For the host blog that is publishing [a] guest post, they will receive a free piece of content that they do not have to write themselves or pay someone else to write it for them. The writer of the guest post, on the other hand, will get to enjoy the perks of amassing a growing readership and driving more traffic to their respective websites.”
The writer will also get instant exposure, expand their network, engage with other contributors, boost their social media follower count, strengthen their backlink profile, collect feedback, and refine their content (Source: ignitevisibility.com).
The Huffington Post used guest blogging when it launched and continues to use it today. It is a great way for them to get lots of content out quickly and expand their audience to include the audience of their many writers.
When I worked at Deseret Digital Media, they also very effectively leveraged user-generated content from guest writers, and I saw firsthand the tremendous value that brought the organization.
Media and Social Media
Huffington has had a big presence in the media that helped her to become an influencer. According to Wikipedia, she was a panelist on the weekly BBC Radio 4 political discussion program Any Questions? and the BBC television panel games Call My Bluff and Face the Music. She served as co-host of BBC’s late-night chat show Saturday Night at the Mill for four weeks. At one point she was the co-host of the weekly, nationally syndicated public radio program Both Sides Now with Mary Matalin.
Before starting The Huffington Post, Huffington hosted a website called AriannaOnline.com. In 2008, She appeared as herself on an episode of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother in May 2010.
Huffington played herself in the Family Guy episode “Brian Writes a Bestseller” along with Dana Gould and Bill Maher in a live segment of Real Time with Bill Maher (Source: wikipedia.org).
Huffington has become a LinkedIn influencer, writing about success and sharing professional insights. She has almost 10 million followers on LinkedIn and more than 2 million on Twitter.
Other Secrets to Success
Here are two other secrets Huffington has learned in her career.
1. Creativity Comes When We Step Away from Technology
When Huffington collapsed from burnout and exhaustion two years after starting the Huffington Post, breaking her cheekbone as she fell, she started to reevaluate how she was living her life.
She said, “That was really the beginning of reevaluating my life and recognizing that I, like millions of other people around the world, had been suffering from the delusion that in order to succeed, we have to burn out.”
“And yet all the latest science disproves that. It actually proves that we need time to recharge, to sleep, to unplug from technology, and I became such a passionate evangelist for this message.”
“My best piece of advice is to make sure that entrepreneurs connect with their own wisdom and creativity, and that’s becoming harder and harder because we are so addicted to technology.” (Source: cnbc.com)
According to Hype Magazine, 65.7% of Americans admit to sleeping with their phone at night. “We are constantly engaging in notifications, social media, texts, emails. And yet the most creative moments come when we put all that aside. That’s why sometimes people’s best ideas come in the shower. So as an entrepreneur, make time for that reflection, ability to connect with your best ideas, and not to be constantly distracted,” Huffington said (Source: cnbc.com).
2. Love What We’re Doing
When Huffington was asked her best advice for starting a business, she said that we need to make sure we really love what we’re doing and believe in our products and services. She said, “When the Huffington Post was first launched in May 2005, there were so many detractors. I remember a critic who wrote, ‘The Huffington Post is an unsurvivable failure.’ . . . So when you get reviews like that and detractors like that, you have to really believe in your product. And when you believe in your product, you are willing to deal with all the naysayers and persevere. That for me is the best advice I got and the best advice I can give.”
Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. We have to remember to take care of ourselves and give ourselves time to rest and recharge.
2. Guest blogging can be beneficial for both the host blog and the guest blogger.
3. Huffington has gained many followers and gained a lot of credibility by being very prevalent in the media throughout her career.
4. Technology can inhibit our ability to be creative as entrepreneurs. Consider setting aside time to step away from it.
5. To persevere through hard times and reviews from harsh critics, we must love what we’re doing and believe in our product.
Connect with Arianna Huffington
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about Huffington or connect with her, you can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ariannahuffington/.
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