" rel="attachment wp-att-6307Photo courtesy of Jimmy SoniOutside of managing roughly 400 newsroom staffers at the

HuffPo’s Soni: “Web publishing is as important as good reporting”

Photo courtesy of Jimmy SoniOutside of managing roughly 400 newsroom staffers at the sixth most-trafficked U.S. news site, 27-year-old Jimmy Soni recently found time to publish a biography of ancient Roman politician Cato the Younger and has caught the attention of publications like Forbes and AdWeek, who named him to their respective lists of media people to watch.

The former speechwriter talked to Ebyline via email about the Huffington Post’s direction, the future of news and what younger journalists need to focus on. His answers have been edited lightly for brevity.

You’ve been the managing editor of the Huffington Post Media Group for about a year now. What are the most important things you’ve learned in that time?

Among the many things I’ve learned, two stick out. The first is that, in the process of changing itself, the news business has invited a range of people who may never have considered themselves journalists into the tent. One of my closest colleagues at HuffPost—and one of arguably the smartest people who works there—used to be a social worker and play in a rock band. We have developers who write poetry and publish on our site. Our deputy managing editor started her career in real estate development. With the conventions of the news business changing, the people who make the business happen change too. I think that’s a good thing. The diversity enriches how we cover the news, and it challenges all of us to think differently.

The other thing I’ve learned is that we have a second-to-none team at HuffPost. I would put them on par with Twitter or Facebook in their understanding of the internet, and I think we rival any major news outlet in the country in how we cover breaking news and current events.

HuffPo has moved from being primarily an aggregation news site, to one that produces Pulitzer Prize-winning work. How do you see the company’s news coverage evolving?

We’ll always provide a mix of aggregation and original reporting to give our readers the best of what’s out there… I think going forward you’re going to see us do more innovative things with video—HuffPost Live being the foremost example here—and on mobile. We’ve launched a range of innovative apps and are about to re-release our core news apps.

What do you use as a benchmark for measuring success at the Huffington Post?

We use editorial impact, broadly defined. Have we shaped the national conversation about an issue? Do millions of people know something they didn’t know before, or have they had their preconceptions challenged or opinions reformed? Did people laugh? Did they cry? Of course we use data to inform these efforts, but data is only one component. We also think about whether we’ve been able to move, engage, and inform people, which is a high bar, of course, but I know we meet it more often than not.

What advice can you offer to younger people looking to write, edit, or manage digital media?

I’m a young person myself, so any advice I have should be taken with the requisite grain of salt. I would say that it’s important to learn that web publishing is as important as good reporting in the age of digital media. And when I mean web publishing, I mean understanding how content operates on the internet and how readers discover and consume content online. Anyone looking to break into the news business these days should give serious thought to how the web has changed people’s news consumption.

If you weren’t managing the Huffington Post, what else could you envision yourself doing?

Here’s the crazy thing: I’m one of those lucky people who has their dream job. Steve Jobs has that line in his Stanford commencement speech about running to work every day? I don’t run (it’s New York, after all, and one doesn’t want to show up to work sweaty), but I do walk briskly. I grew up a news junkie, a computer nerd, and a lover of history – I feel like I experience all of those at HuffPost, so there’s a genuinely no place in the world I’d rather be. If I were forced gun-to-my-head to do something else, I suspect I’d be trying to scratch out a living writing political biographies. That, or teaching high school American history or English…I was lucky to have great history and English teachers who led me to pursue my interests in those fields. I hope you’ll forgive a small but well-deserved shout out to my fifth grade teacher Mr. Baar and my high school teachers Mr. Palmquist and Mr. Nesbitt.