The HuffPost Canada team is just two weeks shy of celebrating its first birthday and what better way to celebrate than to announce the regional expansion of two new sites: HuffPost B.C and HuffPost Alberta. Scheduled to launch this fall, the sites will feature HuffPost's signature blend of news, blogging, community, and social engagement, to capture the unique cultures of both provinces, with regional editorial teams leveraging the power of the HuffPost platform to deliver the most important and most entertaining local stories.
"HuffPost Canada was our first international edition and has always had a special place in the HuffPost family," said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of HPMG. "And I'm delighted that we'll be welcoming even more voices to the conversation by expanding to British Columbia and Alberta, just as we expanded to Quebec in February. Since we're already in a celebratory mood with HuffPost Canada approaching its first birthday, there's no better time to enlarge the discussion with the unique perspectives of these vibrant provinces."
The strong social DNA, vital to the HuffPost model, will extend to connect with the social communities of B.C. and Alberta. The Huffington Post Canada currently generates more than 2 million social actions a month through its commenting and sharing platforms and its social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.*
Arianna will be joining the team, including bloggers, clients, media and friends of HuffPost, in Toronto to reflect and commemorate the success of its first year. Join us in the celebration by exploring our new sites.
about.me now has an app for the iPhone. Built in collaboration with the AOL Mobile team, the app helps ensure your online identity goes wherever you go by delivering the about.me experience as well as access to exclusive mobile features that take advantage of location awareness. The new "Check Out" option lets you view pages of nearby users who are also using the feature, making it easier to connect meaningfully with new acquaintances offline.
More key features of the app include the ability to:
Create your own about.me page
Browse "Featured" and random pages and then email the user or share their page
Search and add pages to your "Favorites" list
View and update your own page
These join existing Web features that let you:
Link to disparate social media pages (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
Add discovery tags to help find like-minded people
Earlier today, in celebration of reaching 300,000 likes, AOL rolled out its new Facebook Timeline page, adding a little bit of color to our story - both literally and figuratively.
The most striking visual element on the page is our new cover photo, featuring the Color World canvas as designed by AOL Artist Mike Perry. The canvases, as created by our AOL Artists, are a great way to use the visual space that Facebook Timeline provides. We will be changing them to feature our artists with each new release starting later this month, so stay tuned for more! For now, learn more about our AOL Artists by visiting http://www.aolartists.com and stay tuned to this blog for more canvas updates.
If you look back through our Timeline, you'll see selected nuggets from AOL's 27 years in business, including our birthday (May 24, 1985), the day "You've Got Mail" was released (December 18, 1998), and, my personal favorite, the first post on our page after I joined AOL (you'll just have to click to find out what that was). We will continue to add highlights to our history as they happen, so be sure to take a look back through our history each time you visit the page.
In addition, we're excited to partner with Twitter and be a part of their Enhanced Profile program which offers us an opportunity to showcase our Color World canvas again and offer a "sticky" tweet of content at the top of the page of highlighting things we think you should keep tabs on.
We are excited to continue to bring stories and news from the AOL and Huffington Post each day, so if you haven't joined us yet, why not give us a follow on Twitter, or Like our page on Facebook!
Le Huffington Post Québec launched in Montreal on February 8th with Arianna Huffington leading a whirlwind media tour, media roundtable and a luncheon. To date, Le HuffPost Québec site, led by managing editor, Patrick White, has seen 106,000 monthly unique visitors (UVs), 19,000 average daily UVs* and shows strong engagement among visitors with an average of 20.5 minutes per visitor- higher than almost all French news competitors.**
Additionally, social plays a significant role in traffic. Since Le HuffPost Québec launch in February, 32% of all entries have come from social media, and in the past seven days 43% of all entries to the site have come from social. ***
Le HuffPost Québec has already recruited 170 bloggers and has built a strong social media network on both Facebook with nearly 7,000 "Likes" and Twitter with more than 5,000 followers.
Since the launch of The Huffington Post Canada this past May, unique visitors from Quebec are up 97% to more than 340,000 UVs on Huffington Post sites*. This is the fastest and largest-per cent growth in any region of Canada.
* comScore, Inc., Total Canada, Home and Work, Quebec, February 2012
** comScore, Inc., Total Canada, Home and Work, Quebec, February 2012; based on AOL created custom list
*** AOL Internal, Feb. 8 - Mar. 21, 2012.
The theme at this year's SXSW Interactive conference was the distinct lack of a theme. The challenge of continuing to find ways for users to create, curate and distribute content was still front of mind for many leaders of major social brands. Most of the stories revolved around "business as usual", as big social media brands get bigger, but with undercurrents of change, diversion and expansion. The reality is that social media companies have run into increasingly difficult challenges as they continue to grow to attempt to reach larger and more difficult to acquire audiences. As a result, much of the real news coming out of Austin was about new versions, growing pains, and acquisitions.
In keynote session on the opening day of the conference, Google Senior VP of Engineering, Vic Gundotra was joined by Alltop Co-Founder and long time Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki for a Fireside Chat about Google+ (view my Storify recap). Challenged by a series of tough questions about some of the issues Google+ has faced in terms of mission, adoption, growth and growing pains, Gundotra continued to preach patience (they're only about 6 months in), offered more focused metrics estimates (around 100 million users a month have created a Google+ profile, and used a "Google+ optimized service"), reiterated the strategy (they could have called it Google 2.0 - it's that important to the company), shared reasoning behind the lack of API (Gundotra doesn't want to flood your Google+ stream with spam), and shared what could be perceived as a few potshots at competition (we have higher standards than to put ads on people's photographs). It still seems clear that Google is still betting that their social layer will be a success, but there is still some work to do to continue to win the hearts and minds of marketers and consumers.
Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley took the stage in his keynote on Saturday (view my Storify recap), offering a glimpse at the good, bad and ugly Foursquare's evolution. He revealed that when they we are about to launch Foursquare at SXSW in 2009, both he and co-founder Naveen Selvadurai were worried about the product being successful, and even embarrassed if it became a flop, and traded plane flights so that one could "babysit" the new product. Obviously, Foursquare did not flop (they are nearing 20 million users, according to Crowley), but they too are facing some challenges in the product set.
Crowley thinks the Foursquare Radar product, which when turned on will recommend great things to do just by sensing where you are, will be one of the most valuable solutions, but the decision for people to use it shouldn't be based on retaining battery life.
Foursquare Deals is the heart of the product, Crowley admitted. Combined with deals, Foursquare's playful nature brings ordinary people to Foursquare. Gamification is an excellent onboarding tool, but he cautioned that their intent is not to make Foursquare a game, rather to make a tool that was fun and useful to their users to provide Foursquare more data to make features like Foursquare Explore even more useful. Foursquare has seemingly won the location war, having fought off Gowalla (acquired) and so far largely rebuffing Facebook's challenge in location. It will continue to be interesting to see how newer geofencing apps like Highlight challenge in the hyperlocal application space.
On Sunday morning, Instagram's Kevin Systrom anchored a panel called "Is Our Photo-Madness Creating Mediocrity or Magic?" (view my Storify recap here), which discussed the change in creativity that has resulted due to the easy ability to create and share digital photographs. During the panel, Systrom shared some of the inspiration behind Instagram ("studying abroad in Florence only a Holga to take pictures) and revealed that Instagram users upload 60-90 photos per second to Instagram. When asked about ownership rights concerns, Systrom declared that Instagram users will own their photos, and that one of the biggest advantages of using Instagram is that they store your photos in duplicated servers all around the around so that you never lose them. It's much more likely to lose photos in a house fire than it is for them to get misplaced online.
Forebodingly, when asked about Instagram for Android, Systrom stated something to the effect of "I may or may not have something" to say about that. Sure enough, by the end of the day, Instagram announced a long awaited version for Android, was coming "very soon", and was sure to be "one of the best Android apps you'll ever see." Twitter, continuing to expand their reach to brands, consumers and marketers, and on the heels of news that they will continue to work on new profile features, announced late on Monday that they will acquire Posterous - a service focused on sharing content longer than 140 characters with a limited group of people - similar to Google+ circles.
All in all, it seems clear to me that the real next barriers seem to be a wicked combination of privacy and technology issues. Limitations on the technology of mobile devices (i.e. battery life, platform availability), the privacy and rights concerns of creating and sharing your content and location, and the genuine consumer benefit of these products and services will continue to be the primary challenges faced by major social brands. People are always the focus of any social product, and will need to be the center of practical solutions as well.