What is the HuffPo getting right that the dead-tree newspapers aren't? Based on Alterman's article, I would say several things. Online aggregators can be extremely flexible with their content, changing the front page as interest peaks. They can constantly update stories as new information becomes available. They create a space for community and discussion online. There is little to no overhead for including expensive stories (e.g. foreign correspondents or investigative reports). And perhaps most importantly, they are not beholden to idealistic objectivity. Alterman writes, "The American newspaper (and the nightly newscast) is designed to appeal to a broad audience, with conflicting values and opinions, by virtue of its commitment to the goal of objectivity." The problem is that the vast majority of Americans do not believe mainstream news media is objective. There is a disconnect between the producers and consumers. The Huffington Post is makes no claim to objectivity. Its staff and contributors have a point of view that they own.
Arianna Huffington states, "Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn't the enemy. In fact, it's the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it." While her business model is proving lucrative for her organization, part of the reason it works is because they get the content cheap. If news organizations shutter their newsrooms, will content still be easily accessible? Social media has proven an invaluable source of boots-on-the-ground information, but at what is the cost of the deprofessionalization of journalism? There are certainly positives; it is the democritization of news a la John Dewey. But we would lose the informed context of events a la Lippmann. There are trade offs for both.