HuffPost's Global Summit: A Worldwide Update

MADRID -- ¡Hola! I'm writing from Madrid, where we're in the midst of our HuffPost Global Summit. It's been a productive and inspiring few days, with senior editorial and business staff from around the world gathered to discuss the exciting road ahead for HuffPost and the next chapter of our international expansion.

A few of us arrived in Spain Saturday night in time for the El Clasico Real Madrid soccer (sorry, fútbol) match against Barcelona. Our whole team was in place by this morning for the beginning of our summit, hosted by Juan Luis Cebrián and José Luis Sainz, who head PRISA, the Spanish media company that owns El País, our El Huffington Post partner. And tonight, we'll gather for a reception at the beautiful residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, James Costos, followed by a dinner -- which in proper Spanish fashion won't start until 9:30 pm -- and a cellist's performance of the Marseillaise. The Summit isn't even over yet but already a great deal has been accomplished -- both celebrating where we are today and planning where we need to go in 2016 and beyond.

In just a few years, HuffPost has come a very long way -- from publishing in one language to publishing in 10, from being a U.S.-focused site to being a global distributed media company in 15 markets, nearly a third of the way toward our goal of being in 50 markets. Our international audience now exceeds our U.S. audience, with 52 percent of traffic coming from outside the U.S. -- an accomplishment that seemed incredibly ambitious when we launched our first international edition, HuffPost Canada, back in 2011.

We've powered that global growth by bringing the best of HuffPost to each new market, while remaining true to our core DNA of seeking to inform, inspire, entertain, and empower. Our global reach gives us a unique ability to start conversations around the world -- our interview with President Obama, the remarkable HuffPost Highline piece on the Mothers of ISIS and our coverage of the World Cup and the Greek elections are just a few examples of our global newsroom in action.

The recent events in Paris showed the power of real-time collaboration among all our newsrooms. More than 150 pieces were translated or adapted into another language, and dozens of videos were created by our editors around the world. We featured local voices in Paris, from HuffPost France editorial director, Anne Sinclair -- whose posts appeared in every edition -- to eye-witness accounts and to Parisians writing about how they were coping in the tragedy's aftermath. We also brought in voices from around the world to share their perspectives, including our Italian editorial director, Lucia Annunziata, and our global editorial director, Howard Fineman, whose big-picture "explainers" of big political and cultural events are being translated across all our editions.

As part of our global What's Working initiative, which aims to highlight the underreported stories of how people rise to the occasion and come up with creative ways to meet challenges large and small, we shined a spotlight on the resilience and compassion that emerged in the wake of incomprehensible tragedy -- from covering the Parisians offering shelter to those in need during the attack (#PorteOuverte) to an intimate view of how parents helped children "draw their emotions."

Every edition across the world has made What's Working its own -- from HuffPost India's stories on empowering women and expanding vocational education to HuffPost Greece's commitment to telling stories of the inspiring ways in which Greeks have persevered in the face of austerity and political uncertainty (HuffPost Greece just turned one and has already covered two elections and a referendum!). Our German edition has led the discussion around welcoming Syrian refugees, and one of our German editors walked across the Serbian border with a group of refugees, telling their stories in real-time in both text and video.

HuffPost UK has been a leader in expanding lifestyle and well-being content internationally, with series on mental health, on disconnecting from technology, and recently on "Building Modern Men" -- creating conversation hubs for each of these subjects. And it's developed an original way of covering big events through its three 'Beyond' series, which included Beyond Belief, Beyond the Ballot and Beyond the Bombings, using multimedia and infographics to tell a deeper story. Of course, another part of our HuffPost DNA is not taking ourselves too seriously: our most watched video this year, garnering over 105 million views on HuffPost UK's Facebook page, was "Cats Train Their Human Servants."

HuffPost Canada, which is now the top news site in the country, experimented with creative new ways of covering campaigns with an election night live-stream that ran simultaneously on Canada's front page and on Facebook. Our team in Toronto drove our international coverage of the Canadian elections with pieces like politics editor Ryan Maloney's take on what Trudeau's victory means for the world. And just last week, HuffPost Canada won first place at the 2015 Canadian Online Publishing Awards for Arti Patel's feature on mental health.

HuffPost Spain, in addition to covering Spain itself, has become a central hub for all things Europe with the hashtag #Mieuropa. Part of this coverage included editorial director Montserrat Domínguez's exclusive interview with European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

One of my favorite examples of holding leaders accountable comes from HuffPost Italy, where, during the spring elections, we published the names of all the politicians suspected to have mafia connections so voters could choose among a "clean list" of candidates. And in the past year, it has created a network of partnerships with organizations working on social issues, at home and abroad.

This year, HuffPost Maghreb launched a wonderful series highlighting the lives of women living in rural areas across the Maghreb region, and HuffPost Arabi has been putting the spotlight on stories we rarely see in coverage of the Arab world -- from the story of an Iraqi cellist who performs amid the ruins after terrorist attacks to a piece about an artist who creates inspiring drawings on the walls of Syrian refugee camps.

Throughout the Summit, it has been so exciting to see how much is being done by all our editions around our distributed content initiatives, which will now accelerate under the leadership of our new executive editor Liz Heron, who is here in Madrid getting to know our international teams. HuffPost Brasil has already been a pioneer in making videos specifically for Facebook and in doubling down on themes of female empowerment and human rights. (It's also doubled its audience in the last three months.) And HuffPost Australia (the baby of the international HuffPost family) launched in August with a video-first mindset (check out some of the videos, ranging from "If Kanye Were President" to "Meet A Generation That Has Grown Up Free From Mass Shootings" to "Coffee Art") and has already become a market leader with 40 million video views. HuffPost Rise, our distinctive new morning playlist, which launched in the U.S. last week, has made featuring videos from all of our international editions a core part of its mission.

Our continuing expansion also means building audiences on major platforms in places where we don't yet have international editions, like WeChat in China. In a virtuous circle, we're exporting what we've learned in the U.S. overseas, and importing the best practices from each of our editions back to the mother ship. Our global network gives us laboratories to explore new ways to reach audiences and build our business. Japan and Korea, for example, are leading the way on mobile. In Korea, 90 percent of HuffPost's traffic comes from mobile. And Japan, where 72 percent of traffic is from mobile, has built the largest HuffPost audience outside the U.S.

The next chapter of our international expansion is HuffPost Global Ventures, a way to scale globally and move beyond a monolithic approach to launching in new countries. In partnership with leading media companies, Global Ventures will synthesize and package HuffPost's core elements into lighter models, allowing us to expand much more rapidly and widely and reach more people authentically.

Sam Napolitano, who is leading our engineering team in the U.S., spoke at the Summit about scaling our technology infrastructure next year with global-first in mind, supercharging our content management system (CMS), analytics tools, and apps to better enable rapid content sharing across all our editions.

On the business front, it has been great to see how nimble and sophisticated our global advertising infrastructure has become. We've built native advertising via HuffPost Partner Studio in every market so brands can reach audiences around the world.

None of this swift growth and innovation would have been possible without strong leadership. Our Chief Operating Officer Koda Wang has been instrumental in building our global business, and our Executive International Editor Nicholas Sabloff has done a superb job leading our editorial teams. All our editorial and business leaders here at the Summit were really excited to meet our new CEO Jared Grusd, whose commitment to expanding our global footprint is so deep he spent his second week as CEO at the launch of HuffPost Australia!

We want to be in 50 countries and in front of tens of millions more people before the end of this decade, and I have no doubt that we have the right team in place to take us there. We were joking at the Summit that we are well on the path to global domination -- not the sinister, Bond villain kind of global domination, but a more positive global domination, like Taylor Swift, or Greek yogurt.

¡Viva HuffPost!