You may have noticed something different about HLNtv.com recently and that's because the digital news outlet received a major makeover. Lila King, HLN's senior director of product strategy and partnerships (pictured above), spoke to us about how CNN's sister network is reinventing itself for the social media community, what's in store for the future, and so much more.
TW Blog: Talk us through the decision to invest in a new HLNtv.com. What was the impetus?
Lila King: All of HLN is in the midst of a grand reinvention — a total rebranding, which re-positions HLN as the social news network. Part of that, naturally, is a new web site that reflects the new mission of the network and also a more modern approach to digital news media.
And the new network direction works incredibly well with the current economics of digital news media. News today is the kind of content that finds YOU, not the other way around. You’re cruising through your feed on Twitter or Instagram, and there it is: the latest story you care about, nestled in with a bunch of other updates from your friends and brands that matter to you. When we re-built HLNtv.com, we built it with that social experience in mind. So many of our stories start with conversations on Twitter, or video we post to Facebook. Our new CMS allows our editors to embed those social posts right up top (where other sites might have a big photo), and then tell the story behind the post.
What are the main differences between the old and new HLNtv.com?
Two words: MOBILE. VIDEO. Mobile is where the audience is and video is where the money is. Our new site was designed first for mobile, with an emphasis on a simple, addictive video experience. We’re really happy to see that our mobile and video audiences have grown significantly (healthy double digits!) since the launch of the new site.
What makes HLN different than other news outlets?
HLN draws all of its headlines and stories from social conversation, an approach we call “social-first.” It’s very different from the approach most news outlets take, where social tends to come at the end of a story, when you tweet a link for people to see it. The stories you see on the HLN site and on our television channel are chosen based on how much interest they’re generating in places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
How does HLNtv.com tie into HLN’s linear channel?
Well, we love that nifty little carousel on the homepage that updates all day long with the show that’s actually on right this minute. But the integration is much deeper than that —
Maybe the best example of this is the HLN Social Index, which leads the homepage. It’s a super addictive — and colorful! — look at what’s trending in the U.S., based on real-time data from Twitter, Facebook and Google searches. And, in keeping with our overall “social-first” approach, it’s also the basis of a 30-minute daily TV show on HLN that counts down the trends and explains what’s behind them.
I've heard that the new site is only just the beginning. Can you give us any hints about what's to come?
So much! We’ve got two big projects on our roadmap: first, turning the HLN Social Index into a much more robust product. We’re working on versions that break down social trends by topic, too — so imagine something like a Pop Index for trends in entertainment, or a Basketball Index during the NBA season. We’re really excited about the partnership opportunities with that one.
Our other big project is something we call HLN Connect — a community program that rewards our audiences for being part of HLN, and also invites them to contribute to causes related to the stories we cover. I think Connect is a huge step toward creating a true “network” from something that's traditionally been a one-way broadcast. It’s a real shot at inventing something genuinely new, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.