I’m taking a break from my usual purported humor writing and indisputably annoying bragging about my daughter to write about my experiences as a newbie Huffington Post contributor. I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about becoming a contributor to HuffPo, so I decided to write this guide that I hope will help others. If you only want to read Trump tweets or reports on our search for the perfect hippie college for my daughter, you can stop reading here. But if you’re interested in getting your writing published and promoted on HuffPo, read on.
A few disclaimers
First, I am new to HuffPo. I can only write about my personal experience and what I have gleaned from reading about the experiences of others, so your results may vary. Also, I’ve almost certainly made egregious errors in this article because, as the title of this article clearly states, I am an idiot. If you find errors, let me know, and I’ll fix them as long as they are comprehensible to my puny brain. You can leave corrections in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, in 2015, HuffPo changed its contributor platform. I’m on the new platform, but I’ve tried to educate myself about the legacy/old platform. There are some important differences between the new platform and the legacy platform. I’ll explain those differences as needed. Spoiler alert — If you’re on the legacy platform, stay there. The new platform has some significant disadvantages.
Third, there will be some people who will read this article and get pissed at me because they think I should not be telling people how to get on a site that does not pay. Seriously, it’s already happened. Instead, they will insist that I should put my efforts toward getting existing HuffPo writers paid. Point taken. HuffPo should pay. No question. But for those of us who are newbie writers, trying to build an audience and portfolio, HuffPo still has some cachet and usefulness. (Although, as I will explain below, if/when people get wind of how the new platform really works, that cachet will probably evaporate.)
Enough of the disclaimers. On to the idiocy.
Q: How do I get on the Huffington Post?
There are several ways to get on the new platform.
1) Win the HuffPo Lottery — Think I got on the platform because of my superior writing skills and riveting content? That’s what my mother thinks, but the honest answer is “nope.” I got on the new platform during one of its open registration periods. I was surfing the web one day, trying to figure out how to get a wider audience for my writing when I stumbled across the HuffPo contributor platform during one of its open registration periods. I was able to create an author page and start posting content. Voila! I am a Huffington Post contributor! Yay me! So the fact that I am now a “Contributor” has nothing to do with my writing and is solely attributable to a combination of timing and skillful Googling. Please don’t tell my mother.
From what I hear, these open registration periods are rare. (It’s closed now.) Before she left HuffPo, Arianna had grand plans to increase the number of HuffPo contributors from 100,000 to 900,000 – effectively turning HuffPo into Tumblr! Hence, the new, more open platform. I don’t know if that’s still the strategy, but if you want to get on the platform, you should periodically check the Huffington Post Contributor Platform website to see if registration reopens. You, too, may win the HuffPo lottery. (Although I’d trade my HuffPo lottery win for cash lottery winnings any day.)
2) Write something so amazing that HuffPo begs you to let them publish it.
I guess it goes without saying that this did not happen to me. But I’ve heard stories of people publishing something on another forum that was so awesome it caught the eye of a HuffPo editor. They were then contacted by the HuffPo editor who set them up with a contributor account. Mission accomplished.
3) Use the Huffington Post pitch form — aka send your writing into a black hole. Huffington Post has a pitch form that allows you to allegedly send blog ideas to the editors. I’m not sure I believe the hype. Before I got on to the platform I used this form several times. Never heard a thing back. I’ve come across random instances where the contact form supposedly worked, but those stories are rare. Really rare. It can’t hurt to try the form, but my sense is that this is not a particularly effective way to get on to the platform.
4) Stalk an editor When I say “stalk,” I do not mean it in a way that is likely to land you on an episode of Dateline. I mean identify an editor who works on a section your writing would fit, and make contact. Be polite, but be persistent. Back in the halcyon days when Arianna was editor in chief, there were countless stories of people emailing a story directly to her which she would pass on to her minions so that a blogging account could be set up for the author. With Arianna gone, this obviously won’t work now (although if you’re dying to write for Thrive, try sending her an email). The current HuffPo editor in chief is very, very new, so I don’t know if this tactic will be effective with her. (Based on the little I know about her, I think not.) So your task will be to identify an editor and then send him/her an email or make contact on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not going to give you explicit instructions about how to locate and stalk an editor because I suspect that would make most of them not very happy with me. But there is a masthead, and a little Googling will probably get you to a name and email address. (Note: the masthead does not include every HuffPo editor, so get creative to find the ones who are not listed. Think of it as an episode of CSI Cyber — only without the C. Also without the S. But with the I.) Also, the email format is largely consistent throughout the organization, so it’s not hard to figure out an email address if you have a name. Again, there is no guarantee that this will work. I tried it with several different editors a number of times before I won the platform lottery. I never received a response. I like to think that was because they were too busy, but they probably just thought my writing was crap.
5) Network If you know someone who has a working relationship with a HuffPo editor, ask that person to recommend you to the editor. Join FB writing groups. I made a useful connection with a HuffPo editor who was a member of a FB group I joined. (More on that later.) I recently tried to help other writers in a different FB group get HuffPo accounts through another HuffPo editor I stalked. (Still waiting on the results of that effort, but I did get a story for another day about how my well-intentioned attempt to help some other writers proved the adage that every good deed will be pissed on by someone. For the record, the pisser was not a HuffPo editor/employee.) I’m sure there are countless other ways to make contact with an editor there in a meaningful non-scary-stalkerish way. Good luck!
Q: I’m on the Platform and have submitted an article. What happens now?
It depends on whether you’re on the new platform or the legacy platform. This is the area where the advantage of the legacy platform is most readily apparent.
On the legacy platform, your first article would be reviewed by an editor who would select the HuffPo section (aka “vertical” in Huffspeak) on which the article would appear. Upon approval, the article would appear like magic on the selected vertical. When I say “appear” that means that the article would show up (at least briefly) on the web page for the chosen vertical. After that first article, you were free to write about any topic you liked and submit it to the vertical of your choice. The article would go through an approval process, but barring a surprise disapproval, the article would appear on the vertical you chose. So if you normally wrote about PMS for the women’s vertical but decided to write about beer of the month clubs for the college vertical, no problem. Bottom line is that if you were already on the platform and submitted an article, it would almost certainly appear on the web page for the vertical of your choice. If the article was not approved, it would not appear anywhere on the Huffington Post website. I’ve heard reports that writers who stuck with the legacy platform still have their articles handled in this manner. What they write will most likely appear on a HuffPo vertical of their choosing.
Articles submitted on the new platform are handled in a completely different way. Once an article is submitted on the new platform, it immediately becomes public with a HuffPo link, on the HuffPo masthead, with no editorial review but with a teeny, tiny disclaimer saying , more or less, “Hey, we here at HuffPo haven’t read this, so we’re not responsible. Let us know if there’s something reprehensible in it. Have a nice day!”
So you can publish literally anything on HuffPo these days, and after you submit the article on the new platform, you will will be able to send your friends links to the article and tell them that you were published on the Huffington Post. Go you! As long as no one complains about the article, it will stay on the Huffington Post unless you decide to remove it. That means I could literally publish my grocery list on the Huffington Post if I wanted to.
Now that I’ve thought of it, I just published my grocery list on the Huffington Post. You can see it here. Share it with your friends! Or report it if you think it’s reprehensible!
So what happens after you have published your article on the new platform? In most cases, absolutely nothing. Your article will sit there in obscurity except for the people to whom you have sent the link and who you have begged to read it. If you run a search for your article on Google or similar, it will not show up. If you run a search on the HuffPo search engine, it will not show up. It will not appear on any verticals. So you’re published on the Huffington Post, but no one will be able to find you without the link. Depressing, no?
Then how do you get out of HuffPo purgatory? The new platform has a process called “promotion.” I’ve had articles promoted three ways. My first promoted article happened after I tweeted it to an editor who I thought might enjoy it because it involved our shared alma mater. (By stalking her on Twitter, I discovered we had attended the same college.) She never contacted me directly but shortly after I tweeted her, I logged onto the contributor platform and noticed that a yellow box with the word “Promoted” had appeared above that article. I clicked on the article and found that it had been reformatted. A new photo was added. The teeny, tiny disclaimer language was removed. My byline was moved. And after a little searching around, I found that my article had popped up on the front page of the Parents vertical. It was also searchable on Google etc. and on the HuffPo search engine. I felt like a real girl! Er – a real Huffington Post contributor! I’m not sure that the tweet was the cause of the promotion, but the coincidence was striking. And strangely, if I hadn’t logged on to the platform, I might never have known that my article was promoted.
I had another article promoted through an even more incomprehensible process. I had had no contact with anyone on the vertical it appeared on, but it was promoted. So there must be someone who is randomly looking at articles. Go figure.
The other way I have had articles promoted is thanks to an editor who generously offered to answer some questions I posted on a FB group for writers. She was also a member of the group. She gave me her email, and the next time I submitted something that I thought would be a good fit for her vertical, I emailed the link to her, and she immediately flagged it for promotion. I’ve had a couple of articles promoted thanks to her. She also told me that she would be flagging my profile, which would make it more likely that I would get an editorial review for promotion for my future articles. As a bonus, she’s pretty hilarious herself, so I’ve really enjoyed our communications.
The other bonus of having a supportive editor at HuffPo is that your articles are far more likely to appear on HuffPo’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s great if your article appears on the vertical but the way you really get eyes on an article is if the link is distributed by HuffPo’s social media. Some of my promoted articles have appeared on social media. Some have not. I think it depends on capacity and an editor’s commitment to getting an article out there.
Q: Now that You’ve Been Published and Promoted a Few Times, What’s Your Opinion of Being Published on HuffPo?
Setting aside the pay issue (which is huge but something I have no control over), I think getting promoted is marginally useful to Newbies. People seem impressed that I’ve been published there, and I’m developing a nice collection of HuffPo articles that I can use as samples of my work.
I haven’t seen a huge increase in traffic to my website even though a link to my website has appeared at the end of every article. I know that other writers have had different experiences. I’m disappointed that it hasn’t had that effect for me.
I’m also disappointed that I don’t have the cross-vertical flexibility that writers on the legacy platform have. I’m reasonably confident that articles that fit into my contact editor’s vertical will be promoted, but articles that don’t fit her vertical languish in HuffPurgatory. I feel like I have to court a different editor in every vertical I’m interested in writing for, and that’s a lot of work. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. Although HuffPo has the potential to give you a huge audience, I’ve found other outlets that give me a lot more flexibility as to subject matter, will consistently pick up my material and promote it on social media to a good sized audience, are absolutely hilarious, and offer the possibility of pay. (I’m looking at you, Sammiches and Psych Meds/MockMom. You guys are the best!)
So I’ll probably continue to post material to HuffPo, especially if it fits into my editor/contact’s vertical. But I’ve found myself going to SPM first and HuffPo later. And if an article doesn’t get promoted within a day or two of posting, I remove it from the HuffPo platform and post it on Medium (with exceptions like the Grocery list — which will remain on HuffPo for all eternity or until it is removed for being reprehensible. Amen.)