The Huffington Post is moving forward with its diversity efforts as it hires BET co-founder Sheila Johnson as strategic advisor for Multicultural and African-American Initiatives and Derek Murphy as general manager, Multicultural. Murphy, who was previously senior vice president, Business Development of The Huffington Post had been COO of Global Media Ventures, which he formed with Johnson.
According to diversity expert Mary-Francis Winters, Huffington Post – by targeting a more diverse readership – is ensuring its future viability. “I think the Huffington Post recognizes that their marketplace is rapidly changing. For example, the Latino population in this country grew 43% from 2000-2010, faster than originally predicted by the US Census. This is compared to an overall population increase of 9.7%. The Hispanic population is now 15%, representing the largest minority group and is expected to be 25% by 2020. The Latino population is younger than the overall population with a median age of 26.7 versus 36.7,” explains Winters.
Workplace diversity expert Lenora Billings-Harris, co author of Trailblazers: How Top Business Leaders are Accelerating Results through Inclusion and Diversity, agrees. “AOL Huffington Post Media Group is recognizing that diversity and inclusion is an advantage with a bottom-line impact,” she says. “All of the stakeholders involved in this strategic move have a deep understanding of business as well as culture. This group of trailblazers will lead the way to major results for diversity in the media as well as several other fronts.”
Through the efforts of Johnson and Murphy, the news network will launch “Patch Latino” for communities with large Latino populations. According to the Huffington Post, Murphy will drive the overall strategy and operational performance for AOL Latino, BlackVoices and AOL’s other multicultural offerings. Patch Latino will kick off with new sites in Southern California by the end of 2011.
The Huffington Post and Johnson had recently announced the launch of Global Black, a section devoted to African-Americans. But they, according to a spokesperson, have instead decided to make Global Black AOL Black Voices, a pre/existing site. “The African-American population is about 13.5% of the overall population and grew at a 12% rate since the 2000 census. Also younger with a median age of 30, the young African-American population often sets trends in pop culture,” notes Winters. And the Media Audit reported that 32% of media consumed by African-Americans is from the Web. “If the Huffington Post is to remain relevant, they will have to appeal to the changing demographic makeup of their audiences,” says Winters. “These two positions will allow for a more targeted focus on emerging markets. Cultural differences are complex and often nuanced in different contexts and meanings. There is greater potential to misunderstand or offend when there is a lack of cultural competence.”
In February 2011, AOL purchased The Huffington Post, which was founded by Arianna Huffington with a $1 million investment in 2005, for $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock.