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Huffington Post Targets Global Expansion

The Huffington Post is aiming to double its global audience in the next two years through partnerships with newspapers that are still struggling to understand the web, according to the executive in charge of the website's international expansion.

"The international business needs to be as meaningful to Huffington Post as it is in the US," Jimmy Maymann, senior vice-president for international of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, told the Financial Times, indicating that it could equal the site's 40m monthly visitors within two years.

He plans to launch the news and commentary site, which AOL acquired for $315m in February 2011, in another 10 markets during 2012 by helping traditional media companies, who are struggling with declining offline readership.

"We have proven over a five-year time period that we have been able to build a different kind of news platform that has been able to overtake the best newspaper out there, which for me is the New York Times," Mr Maymann said, referring to Huffington Post's US traffic surpassing nytimes.com in mid-2011. "There is a lot of experience and knowledge about how you get to 40m unique visitors a month. On top of that there is also the [technical] platform."

He added: "AOL as a company has a good understanding of how to monetise online, which is something that a lot of traditional newspapers could learn something from."

The Huffington Post launched regional editions in the UK and Canada during 2011.

An alliance with Le Monde and its shareholder Les Nouvelles Editions Indépendantes (LNEI) for the French launch in 2012 will provide one template of how Huffington Post plans to "be global and act local", Mr Maymann said. The two organisations will launch a co-branded website under a revenue share arrangement.

"It could make a lot of sense to look at commercial partnerships or joint ventures, where we look at more traditional publishing houses with traditional news titles but haven't necessarily done the transition into the social news space so well," he said. "What we get by partnering with Le Monde is a well established brand name, known for quality news."

Huffington Post is central to AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong's strategy of producing "premium content" that is more appealing to advertisers, despite its reputation for rewriting and linking to stories originally produced on other sites.

"Premium, to me, is something where we spend time, money and energy and make it original," Mr Maymann said. "If we take a property like Huffington Post, 25 per cent of that is original premium, a lot of it is curated, some of it is syndicated. I think we and I can live with that if the mix is right and it's enough to engage the audience."

Mr Armstrong said in December that the company had reduced its non-US presence from 37 to 20 countries, making up around 10 per cent of revenues.

"We're now re-expanding back out into a list of countries," Mr Armstrong told the UBS media conference in New York. "We have a list of countries in western Europe and some other countries in Asia that we're looking at expanding to . . . International is going to be a bigger and bigger part of what the company looks like in the future."

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