HuffPost UK’s blogs have changed people’s lives. Last year Satbir Singh wrote about a seemingly random and unfair decision to ban his wife from getting a visa. Within days of that blog being published, the decision was reversed and his family reunited in time for Christmas.
Whether it’s Michelle Obama writing about mental health, Charlotte Kitley’s blog filed in the event of her death, or tube driver Seb Michnowicz explaining his decision to strike, HuffPost UK’s blogging platform is at the heart of our mission to amplify people’s voices and stir debate about the issues we most care about.
We’re proud of what we have achieved as a place for experts to hold people in power to account, and for ordinary people and their experiences to be elevated alongside them. We value this diversity, and the informed and authentic opinions it has brought to a wide audience.
But as the media landscape has changed, so has HuffPost’s approach to blogging and today we are announcing some changes. Previously our focus has been on growing our network’s reach – now our priority is being a platform for voices that really add to the debate.
Until now, we have vetted blogs for legal issues and very cursory editing and language changes. But now there are so many places people can write unedited on the internet, we feel that as editors we want to do both our bloggers and our readers justice and publish only the very best of the submissions.
Our new guidelines emphasise that we will not publish blogs that fail to meet an audience interest test as defined by our editors: they have to be compelling, relevant to our readers and written from a point of experience. We are also re emphasising that we will not host bloggers who are commercially invested in what they are writing about, or those who use their access to the blogs to blag holidays or products.
Why are we doing this? Our colleagues at HuffPost US are announcing some major changes. Lydia Polgreen, the international editor-in-chief, has decided to close the blogging platform in the US. Her decision prompted a conversation here. But the context in the US and UK is very different. The US platform allows bloggers to self-publish, creating an unregulated, unedited and unrefined stream of noise into the noisy space that is the internet. In the UK that is entirely different - we do monitor, edit and curate the blogs before they launch.
But we feel that we need to do more of that to drive up standards and ensure the HuffPost UK blogging platform remains the high quality, prestige place to share ideas in the UK that, at its best, it already is.
There is a second change we are making. Separately to the blogging platform we will also start to pay columnists to write for us. HuffPost UK has in the past been accused of exploiting writers by not paying for them. Before I became editor-in chief four months ago, I thought about this very carefully. I have been a journalist all my career and I could never edit a news publication that exploited journalists – or anyone else for that matter.
But the fact is this has never been the case. HuffPost UK has always done two separate things: produced revelatory, original journalism; and provided a platform for ideas.
In the UK, our journalism is produced by a team of 38 journalists in the UK. These journalists are commissioned and properly paid. Separately, the blogging platform was a space where people could choose to write and share their ideas - just like Facebook or Medium or Twitter. We gave people the opportunity to reach our audiences.
To protect that distinction we haven’t previously commissioned freelance journalists, which I believe took a string from our bow and frankly locked a small but important number of professional freelance journalists out of the HuffPost UK world.
So separately to the blogging platform we will also introduce a small tranche of paid columnists who will write articles as professional writers, giving us their unique analysis of the world from another perspective.
When HuffPost’s blogs were introduced in the US in 2005, Facebook was only a year old, there was no Twitter, no Medium, no plethora of places where people could share ideas unmediated. It was genuinely innovative. Now there are many places people can write on open platforms. Our new plan for HuffPost UK is to preserve the very best of our blogging platform and make it the most desirable place to share ideas, expertise and people’s real, lived experiences. We hope you join us.
Polly Curtis is editor-in-chief of HuffPost UK
To read the new guidelines on blogging with HuffPost UK, click here