Huffington Post cofounder Ken Lerer is apparently at work on a stealthy startup aimed to “attract a generation of Web natives who watch Jon Stewart but not CNN or Fox News,” reports Peter Kafka at AllThingsD. Internet locals who love Jon Stewart and loathe cable news . . . wait, is he talking about Betabeat??
The startup is so stealth it doesn’t even have a name yet, although it’s already hiring. The service will function as a joint venture between Lerer Ventures, Mr. Lerer’s seed stage VC firm, and Bedrocket Media Ventures, the video studio and incubator he cofounded shortly after selling HuffPo to AOL for a cool $315 million.
Soho TechLabs, the fledgling startup incubator formed by several Huffington Post refugees, announced via an inaugural tweet today that they’re recruiting early founders and employees. The company, backed by Lerer Ventures, was originally announced in Ad Age in January; it will be lead by a team of ex-Huffpoers, including founders Paul Berry, Jonah Peretti and Ken Lerer, as well as former Huffington Post president Greg Coleman. As we previously reported, the new incubator will be housed at 560 Broadway, the current home of Lerer Ventures.
Jonah Peretti’s office has two glass walls, two white walls and no decoration except for a giant, multicolored rectangle, with blue and violet hues fading upward and coalescing into a tight little rainbow wheel at the top. The Brooklyn artist Cory Archangel, a friend of Mr. Peretti’s, makes these “gradient paintings” with one click in Photoshop, blows them up and sells them for lots of money, Mr. Peretti said. It is, in his words, “kind of a joke.”
Mr. Peretti, 38, a navy-eyed, wavy-haired nerd-king with a machine-gun giggle, was a cofounder of the Huffington Post before he moved on to other things. He likes these gradient paintings a lot. His Twitter page is also a gradient. Mr. Peretti, a career mischief maker with a “great, sort of trollish sense of humor,” as one former employee put it, likes jokes best when they’re subversive. He’s infamous for arguing that Mormonism is superior to Judaism because of its growing numbers, a shtick he uses in presentations. As a grad student at MIT in 2001, he ordered a pair of custom Nikes embroidered with the word “sweatshop,” extracting a series of awkward emails from an unlucky customer service rep. He forwarded the emails to a few friends, who forwarded them to their friends, and so on. Literally millions of people have read them.
The news broke today that Paul Berry, the longtime CTO of Huffington Post credited with their legendary SEO and early adoption of social networking tools, was leaving the company. Betabeat has learned that Mr. Berry will be reuniting with the old gang, Ken Lerer and Jonah Peretti, as he builds out a startup called Rebel Mouse and a new incubator focused on viral and social startups.
The Verge launched yesterday in the early a.m. without a hitch: a sleek tech news site complete with longer analysis, forums, a product database and a Q&A with insanely-popular Apple blogger John Gruber to ensure a nice inaugural traffic boost.
“For me, this was an idea that was forming for a long time,” said Josh Topolsky, former Engadget editor and current editor and co-founder of the new site. The editor—Jimmy Fallon’s gadget consultant and electronic musician—was getting notes from co-workers as he spoke to Betabeat this morning by phone (“26, 27 editorially-focused employees? Okay, I’m being told it’s 29″).
UPDATE: Reuters reports that The New York Times is suing AOL Inc to force the The Huffington Post to change the name of its new blog, Parentlode, which borrowed the chief writer, Lisa Belkin, and most of the name from her previous NY Times column, Motherlode.
“The Times said Belkin “clearly intended” to confuse readers into believing her new blog was the same as her old blog, which she called a “virtual koffee klatch” for parenting,” reports Reuters. “The Times sued AOL for trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices. It also wants AOL to abandon its trademark application for the Parentlode name.”
Last November two advisers from the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Peter Daou and James Boyce, filed suit against Arianna Huffington, claiming she stole the idea for the Huffington Post from them and cut them out of the business. Along with her co-founder Ken Lerer, Ms. Huffington filed to have the case dismissed. Now, as PaidContent reports, New York state Judge Charles Ramos has ruled that the case can go to trail.
The judge threw out seven of the eight complaints filed, but said that Ms. Huffington herself had confirmed the idea was something concrete and novel in a 2008 interview with Playboy. The pressure is now on Ms. Huffington to settle or be draw into a public court battle.
Apparently ripping and running with the work created by New York Times journalists was getting to be a little stale for the blog lords at The Huffington Post. Founder Arianna Huffington has been poaching top talent from the gray lady as well. But today, as first reported by John Koblin at WWD, the Times Read More
For the last decade, Erick Schonfeld has been the lone wolf of tech media, working as the East Coast point man for tech publications headquartered in Silicon Valley “He’s the kind of reporter who can handle anything you throw at him, from a trendy Web 2.0 startup to a Fortune 100 titan,” said Josh Quittner, who was Mr. Schonfeld’s old boss at Business 2.0. “For us he played the one man band.”
The thirty-nine-year-old father of three lives in the suburbs near Chappaqua, forty five minutes north of New York City. (He left a tip on Foursquare about his morning commute from the Metro North station: “Get here early and snag a metered parking spot.”)
It’s Ad Week in New York, so expect a lot of announcements geared to catch the attention of the buyers who spend big bucks for top brands. The Huffington Post kicked things off with a bang, announcing that it had broken one billion pageviews for the first time this past this past August.
The growth is paired with a push by Arianna Huffington to craft verticals around every type of audience. The site has recently launched HuffPost Gay Voices, HuffPost Weddings and HuffPost High School, among the more than twenty new categories it has brought online since being purchased by AOL.
International expansion is also ramping up. Ms. Huffington was in Brazil when the whole Crunchfund drama erupted and is planning more trips abroad in the coming weeks.
There was no indication in the press release of how much of this new traffic comes from AOL’s considerable network. If the growth is simply the result of the new partnership, then it’s less interesting than new organic highs.
As Kara Swisher points out, HuffPo is also acquiring companies and continuing its hiring binge, taking full advantage of its big new bottom line.
Michael Arrington has been dodging questions over bias and journalistic integrity ever since he got back into the investing game earlier this year. But we guess launching a $20 million venture capital fund has a way of making the issue hard to ignore. Yesterday, shortly after closing a fund, Mr. Arrington resigned from his role as managing editor of TechCrunch, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“Mike will run the fund and will continue to write for TechCrunch, but will have no editorial oversight,” AOL spokesman Mario Ruiz told the paper, noting that Erick Schonfeld, co-editor, will serve as interim editor while AOL tries to find a personality to replace Mr. Arrington.
That said, AOL Huffington Post doesn’t appear to be making any signs to distance itself. AOL is leading the limited partner group in the less-than-subtly named “Crunchfund.”