Inside Digital: Huff Post CEO Jared Grusd on the global digital media landscape

Huffington Post global CEO Jared Grusd talks marketing, content creation, publishers and platforms

• Huffington Post global CEO Jared Grusd on marketers, content creation, publishers and platforms

By James Manning

Jared Grusd spent his first week working for The Huffington Post in head office in New York and he then flew to Australia for his second week. “I am committed to ensuring our international experiences are world class and I want to see that for myself,” Grusd told Mediaweek during his recent visit.

After he departed Australia, he headed home to collect and analyse the observations he made during his first week and then his trip here. “Those experiences will be used to crafting a coherent way The Huffington Post will approach big shifts in the marketplace.

“We are at a very exciting time in the overall media landscape. Consumers are expecting to get access to media content in new ways. We are seeing some big changes.

“We have already moved from print to digital and in digital we are now seeing massive change. We are seeing a shift from text to video and we are also seeing a shift in online destinations to big platforms like Facebook and Google, Twitter and Snapchat etc. There is a great opportunity for a few brands to break through from the pack and really take advantage of all of those trends and to provide value into the marketplace.

What excited me about The Huffington Post is that it’s a global brand that stands for something. What it stands for is to inform and entertain. A lot of media brands also stand for that. The Huffington Post also stands for to inspire and to empower. That concept really resonates with people around the world and has allowed it to build a truly global brand.

“What I am excited about is helping to extend the value of that brand into the new way consumers want to interact with that content. There is a great opportunity and some challenges in order to get there.”

Now that it has such a large global audience, Grusd said his job wasn’t to monetise that audience. “If that was the requirement then they might have chosen someone who comes from the advertising world and revenue world. My profile is to be someone who really understands the broader trends taking place and can help position the company for the future.

“A lot of people assume that the major value add of The Huffington Post is the brand and the scale that it has achieved. And now it is just a question of monetising that scale.

“The way I look at it is getting to the scale is necessary but not sufficient. What it does is give you is a platform to go onto the next chapter. Because the world is shifting so dramatically to mobile devices and other platforms, what I want to do is extend the scale we have built around the world and spread it across all the platforms and all the devices where people want to consume the news.

I am neither a pure journalist nor a pure revenue person. I see myself as a bridge to help bring together three things – great content, great products and experiences as well as great distribution.”

With a strong global presence, Grusd said he thinks there will be opportunities for global advertising partnerships. “One of the beauties of having a global brand is that you can tap into it. But the world has shifted. It used to be publishers created content and advertisers created ads – they put them on the content and that was the transaction.

“We are now living in a day and age where marketers really have two opportunities when it comes to digital. The first is programmatic which is a scientific model for optimising the value of their spend. The world has over indexed on that. What marketers are seeking is something different. They are seeking a way to have a more authentic connection with the brands they operate and the content experiences that flow from publication. Marketers don’t want editorial control, but they want their messages and themes to resonate.

“In the case of The Huffington Post we are inspiring and empowering and it is a very positive message that a lot of marketers want to tap into. There is a great symbiotic relationship between what we stand for and what marketers want. The advantage of being a global brand is that we do have scale. Marketers also want not just a specific consumer base, but also many consumers. Being global allows marketers to get a lot of reach.

“One of the nice things about The Huffington Post is that we are part of two other global brands – AOL and Verizon. When you combine The Huffington Post with them we are able to provide the broad tools that marketers want – authentic resonance with consumers, deeply engaged experienced as well as reach.”

When asked about what is happening in the future regarding content delivery, Grusd said he thought we would be in mobile for some time. “The two trends that I see happening that I haven’t fully hit yet are what are the relationships between publishers and platforms going to be and what are the different experiences that will occur?

“In the last few weeks we have seen announcements from Google, Twitter, Facebook and Apple News who are all creating products in this space. Figuring out ways we can partner and add value to those kinds of platforms is the most immediate wave to think about.

“The second is about new platforms that haven’t yet hit the consumer mainstream yet. Some people think it could be the watch, other people think it could be virtual reality. They are two exciting platforms that haven’t received much penetration in any marketplace. They create a canvas though that could allow content creators to paint stories and pictures in a very different way than historically.

The best content creators and the best content curators and the best journalists will be the ones who figure out how to tell narratives that are compelling and authentic on the different platforms that emerge from time to time. Mobile is the biggest one at the moment.”

Image (L to R): Jared Grusd, Greg Hywood, Allen Williams, Chris Janz

Arianna Huffington welcomed Grusd to his new role earlier this year noting he was part of the team at AOL when they first discussed acquiring The Huffington Post. “He now comes to us after four very successful years as global head of corporate development and general counsel of Spotify, where he helped transform it from a startup into the world’s leading music streaming company.”

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