Digital journos get creative with conventions

HuffPost, Politico, Current amp up Web, social media offerings

The Huffington Post launched its video streaming network HuffPost Live earlier this month, several weeks before the media blitz of the Democratic and Republican conventions.

But rather than spend big to move its base of operations to the convention cities of Tampa and Charlotte, HuffPost Live is staging “shadow conventions” by focusing a day on each of three issues not getting play by the major parties: money in politics, poverty and the war on drugs.

With major news orgs investing millions in covering both conventions, fledgling operations, particularly websites venturing heavily into video, have to do more with less. Politico’s Politico Live is planning extensive video coverage in addition to daily public breakfasts as well as newsmaker interviews in each convention city.

Current TV is basing its coverage in New York, where former VP Al Gore will lead a panel that includes “The War Room” host Jennifer Granholm, “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer and “The Young Turks” host Cenk Uygur. David Shuster and Michael Shure will report from both conventions. The video, however, will comprise no more than a quarter of the screen during the coverage, with half devoted to social media conversations.

“We can’t really compete with the big cable networks and staffs of 500 people, so we thought we would change the game a little bit,” said Current TV prexy David Bohrman.

HuffPost execs echo that sentiment. “When it came time to start thinking about how HuffPost Live would handle the conventions, we really didn’t want to do the standard convention coverage,” said Roy Sekoff, Huffington Post founding editor and president and co-creator of the streaming venture. “It is really a three-day commercial the parties hold for themselves.”

Instead, Sekoff said they drew an idea that dates to 2000, when Arianna Huffington staged “shadow” conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the sites of the Republican and Democratic gatherings that year.

“We are taking three subjects, three issues and doing a full court press on them,” Sekoff said. As an example, a story of the impact of poverty on marriages may appear on the Huffington Post Divorce page, while HuffPost Live will feature not just an array of guests but “real time conversations” from across the country.