TORONTO (AP) - Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the popular news hub The Huffington Post, is expanding to Canada in the first of several planned openings abroad.
Huffington was in Toronto this week to launch Huffington Post Canada, which went live Thursday.
"This is the first in a series of our international expansion, the next being in England in July, then we're going to Latin America to launch in Brazil," Huffington told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. "Our goal is to keep growing, expanding in all areas, and producing a real 21st century media company across all platforms and on every subject."
When AOL agreed to pay $315 million for The Huffington Post in February, the Internet company was buying more than just a news, gossip, commentary and aggregator site. AOL was paying for the brand power of Arianna Huffington.
Huffington was appointed president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group after the acquisition and given the resources to begin expanding the "HuffPo" brand beyond U.S. borders.
"It's really wonderful to launch in Canada," she said. "Every time I would come to Toronto for a speech I would talk to people about launching here and with the AOL deal we were able to do it pretty fast. It's exciting to see the growth campaign we're on now."
The HuffPo started out mostly as a left-leaning political blog with a host of celebrity bloggers when it first started six years ago with about $1 million in funding. It has since expanded to include more celebrity and lifestyle content, along with political reporting, and has ballooned into one of the Web's most popular news sites.
According to Comscore, which measures Web traffic, more than 27 million people in the U.S. visit the site directly every month - or 13 percent of the U.S. online population.
In the United States, The Huffington Post offers readers a national news site as well as several regional sites, including editions in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Denver. Huffington said two new regional U.S. sites would also be launching.
The HuffPo also has a network of 500 plus very local websites that cover 800 communities in the U.S. under the umbrella of Patch.com. The Patch sites combine national and regional information with local community news. Huffington said they plan to launch 33 new Patch sites in primary states.
"The fact that we are an entirely digital operation and therefore we don't have the legacy costs and the legacy obstacles, we can proceed on all fronts, international expansion, local expansion," said the 60-year-old immigrant from Greece and ex-wife of former Republican congressman Michael Huffington.
In an era where the Internet has forced traditional media companies to downsize and consolidate in the face of dwindling ad revenues and subscriptions, The Huffington Post, now with backing from AOL, has found its place in the age of new media, capitalizing off of advertisers hungry to target the growing number of online users. The work of its paid staff is augmented by content from news outlets and 6,000 bloggers who write for free.
The Canadian expansion will serve as a test ground for the hub's international growth plans. The decision to head north was fueled in part by the large number of Canadians who read the U.S. edition, Huffington said. According to Comscore, about 1.5 million Canadians check out The Huffington Post's website every month.
"(The Canadian launch) is a win-win situation," said Huffington. "We're going to be doing original stories but also aggregating to other great news sites in Canada so we're providing a platform for interesting voices some know, some not known."
Blogger Chris Turner who writes Sympatico.ca's daily fashion blog fashionist.ca said he will be checking out Huffington Post Canada regularly.
"Like it or not, there's a certain power that the Huffington Post has simply because of their extreme reach. It will be interesting to see how AOL implements their strategy of bringing the site to Canada. They've promised extensive Canadian coverage but judging from reader feedback on the Canadian site (already) I'm not sure that is what current HP Canadian readers are looking for."
A blogger last month filed a lawsuit against AOL and The Huffington Post for not paying freelance bloggers while benefiting financially from the content they create. AOL maintains the lawsuit has no merit and that bloggers benefit by having their work seen by as many people as possible.
"We are two things at once," Huffington said Friday. "A journalistic enterprise, hiring hundreds of journalists with benefits, great salaries and we are a platform that is available to anyone who does quality work to disseminate their ideas, promote their books, movies, political candidacies or whatever it is they are engaged in."