Self-care and wellness applications on smartphones have been booming. According to a February 2019 Forbes article, the self-help industry rakes in $9.9 billion annually in the United States alone – and much of that is generated from online and app-based revenue. After leaving the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington founded “Thrive,” a startup built on the premise of getting users to unplug. Fresh off a new $30 million round of funding, she kicked off 2018 with an unorthodox method for how to build that discipline. To quell addictive digital behaviors, mobile phones may seem like an odd place to start. But Huffington’s “Thrive” jumped into the issue, head–on. Weaning people off their devices was no simple process. Huffington first had to give customers the tech equivalent of a nicotine gum — and that was her new “Thrive” app. With features like “Thrive mode” to pause messages, or a usage dashboard to create reminders for when it’s time to get off Facebook, Huffington stepped into her customers’ skin. She created digital tools where people could follow and respond to their own habits. How does the overall “Thrive” brand deliver unique value to its customers? What are its chances of profitability and sustainability going forward?
For more information about the history of the Huffington Post, read the timeline below.
Arianna Huffington, married and living in Washington, begins writing a nationally syndicated political column for newspapers.
Huffington’s divorce prompts a move to Los Angeles in 1998, a shift in her political allegiances (from conservative to progressive), and a newfound interest in the internet. She begins posting blogs on her website, a new phenomenon in the late 1990s.
Huffington loses her bid to become governor of California.
After writing about the elections, Huffington becomes convinced there is an online need for a progressive site similar to, and to contest, the conservative Drudge Report.
With $2 million in funding, Huffington and a former AOL executive, Ken Lerer, founded Huffington Post as a platform for aggregating and featuring not only her blogs, but also those of others. Almost immediately, the blogging site proves “sticky”—in part because of Huffington’s skill at soliciting blogs from well-known writers and celebrities. The bloggers offer opinions and often link to stories produced by other mainstream news organizations. Also, in contrast to other sites, the editorial and technology staff sit side-by-side, learning from each other how to increase traffic to the site through search engine optimization (SEO).
Huffington Post has a collection of more than 3,000 bloggers who write 300 posts a day and has between 12million and 20 million unique monthly visitors. Yet profitability still eludes the company.
AOL purchases the Huffington Post for a reported $315 million, and Huffington stays on as president and editor-in-chief. In AOL’s 2011 annual report, its top priority is expanding the Huffington Post Media Group internationally “to provide relevant and engaging online consumer content produced by us and through strategic partnerships.”
In August, the Huffington Post launches an ambitious video network called HuffPost Live. Boosted by big-name advertisers like Cadillac and Verizon, the site plans to host 12 hours of live programming each day.
In August, HuffPost Live shuts down its Los Angeles studio and shifts operations fully to New York. It also plans to dedicate greater resources internationally.
In November, HuffPost Live’s team grows to 70 people, churning out some 400 original video clips per week with 92 million views in a month. October ComScore data shows 236 million video views for HuffPost, with around 28 million coming from its live programming.
In May, Verizon acquires AOL for $4.4 billion in cash, at $50 per share. Verizon mainly has its eyes on AOL’s tools for selling digital ads and delivering high-quality video content. But HuffPost is also acquired as part of the deal.
In January, HuffPost Live effectively ends its run. The 3 ½-year-old network conducted interviews with 32,000 guests, netting 3 billion video views.
In July, AOL parent company Verizon agrees to buy Yahoo for $4.8 billion. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong says the move would help the brands compete with the likes of Facebook and Google.
In August, Huffington leaves to form a new online enterprise. By now, Huffington Post has more than 81 million monthly visitors, 13editions around the globe, and more than 1,200 daily posts. The site has also finally turned profitable.
Huffington’s new venture is called Thrive Global, described in venture funding material as “a consumer and corporate well-being productivity platform.” Through her two books—Thrive and The Sleep Revolution—and extensive personal appearances, Huffington has already promoted a conversation around health and wellness topics. She hopes to turn the conversations into both a B2C and a B2B enterprise.
In December, HuffPost names former New York Times Global Editorial Director Lydia Polgreen as its new editor-in-chief. The site closes the year with 17 international editions.
In April, the Huffington Post changes its name to HuffPost. The site also introduces a massive redesign, with a more targeted list of ad partners. “Arianna’s drive and wit still flow through HuffPost,” CEO Jared Grusd says. “The new name is a real homage to her legacy, but it also sort-of moves us forward.”
In June, Verizon closes on its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo. Yahoo and AOL properties, including HuffPost, are brought under a new content umbrella called Oath. As part of a 15% staff reduction, HuffPost lays off 39 employees.
After netting $7 million in funding in 2016, Huffington’s Thrive Global ramps up its efforts to grow, with a $30 million round of funding in November. Its revenue mainly comes through two sources — corporate clients in search of health and wellness tools, and sponsorships/online content.
In January, HuffPost shuts down its platform of 100,000 unpaid bloggers. Instead, it launches two new sections — HuffPost Opinion and HuffPost Personal. The new Opinion section consists of both regular columnists and one-off guest writers, with dedicated editors to produce op-eds. The new Personal section is set up as a spot for essays by guest writers, as well as other forms of person-first material ― features, Q&As and interviews with reporters.
At the February World Government Summit in Dubai, Huffington explains how her new Thrive app works. “Thrive mode” allows users to pause responding to messages, until the individual wants to return. The app also includes a time limit/usage dashboard for apps and games, which provides users with alerts for when to unplug.
Thrive Global ends its Series B extension in May with $43 million raised, at a $121.5 million valuation. The company also makes three new hires, under the leadership of former Condé Nast executive Anne Sachs.
Over the summer, Huffington turns to LinkedIn as a platform to build the Thrive brand. She posts videos urging her followers to “Ask Me Anything,” resulting in 400 submissions on topics ranging from stress and burnout to leadership and productivity.
For more information about how Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global business model and unique value proposition, refer to pages 105-106 in The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur.
Sources for Huffington Post timeline:
10-K form, AOL 2011: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1468516/000119312512076633/d281886d10k.htm
Huffington Post Shrinks Its Name to HuffPost, in a Step Back From Founder: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-huffington-post-shrinks-its-name-to-huffpost-1493110800
HuffPost lays off 39 journalists after Yahoo-Verizon deal closes: http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-huffington-post-layoffs-20170614-story.html
Verizon closes $4.5B acquisition of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer resigns [Memo] https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/13/verizon-closes-4-5b-acquisition-of-yahoo-marissa-mayer-resigns-memo/
HuffPost Live cuts staff, pretty much abandons live programming: https://www.thewrap.com/huffpost-live-cuts-staff-pretty-much-abandons-live-programming/
Press release — The Huffington Post to Expand Global Presence with 16th Edition, HuffPost Mexico https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000155-2d60-d270-ab57-ff60d59e0000
Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global raises $30M so you can work less and sleep more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/29/arianna-huffingtons-thrive-global-raises-30m-so-you-can-work-less-and-sleep-more/
Lydia Polgreen Named Editor-In-Chief Of The Huffington Post https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lydia-polgreen-huffington-post_us_5846ef54e4b0fe5ab693122b
Introducing HuffPost Opinion And HuffPost Personal: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/huffpost-opinion-huffpost-personal_us_5a5f6a29e4b096ecfca98edb
HuffPost Shuts Down Unpaid Contributor Blogger Program: http://variety.com/2018/digital/news/huffington-post-ends-unpaid-contributor-blogger-program-1202668053/
We need to stop glamorizing people who are always on their phones, Arianna Huffington says: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/11/world-government-summit-ariana-huffington-says-its-time-to-stop-glamorizing-people-who-are-always-on-their-phones.html
Arianna Huffington wants to help fix our ‘culture of burnout’
Condé Nast’s Anne Sachs Heads for Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global
Arianna Huffington exclusive interview with CNBC
Self-help in the age of new technology