When we launched the Huffington Post Highline last year, we wanted to answer a question: What would happen if all the creative resources of a publication were dedicated to making one story a week as good as it could possibly be? The aim was to marry the best traditions of magazine journalism (the artistry, the depth) with all the innovation that’s possible on the web.
Highline stories range widely in subject and style, but they all have to feel big and surprising, important and illuminating. To truly move readers—to do more than merely convey information—we believe it’s crucial for each piece to draw readers into its world. For every story, we create a custom digital design inspired by the story’s subject and tone. We use multimedia and interactive elements not for extra bells and whistles, but to make the story more emotionally powerful. Custom-built openers that use video and animation set the atmospheric and stylistic tone for each piece—our version of the high-impact magazine cover. Primary source documents and annotations are embedded throughout most pieces. We’ve found that this not only adds texture, but also builds credibility, since readers can see key evidence for themselves. The overall goal is to erase old divisions in media between audio and video and print. We think that, for the right stories, if you combine all elements of storytelling in a single space, you can create an even more compelling experience.
There’s a very strong public interest aspect to what we do. Stories can’t merely be interesting; we only deem them successful if they change policy or minds (preferably both). We’ve run massive investigations into corporate giants like Johnson & Johnson and Dupont, exposing wrongdoing and capturing the underlying psychology of their respective industries. We’ve explained why “ethical shopping” does little except make the consumer feel good about himself. We’ve published “The Mothers of ISIS,” a humanizing portrait of women whose children joined the worst terror organization on earth. And we told the story of Jackie Fuchs, a former member of the Runaways, who was raped by her manager in front of a crowd of people, which included Joan Jett and several other bandmates.
And the response has been excellent. The Columbia Journalism Review noted that our design and “rigorous reporting” help us “break through the noise.” One of our stories was optioned by George Clooney’s production house. We also think it’s an incredibly hopeful sign for the industry that our stories are regularly among the highest performing on The Huffington Post, attracting millions of readers.