Berlusconi interview to launch Huffington Post Italy

MILAN, Sept 24 Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:51pm EDT

MILAN, Sept 24 (Reuters) - An interview with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will launch the Italian edition of the influential Huffington Post news and views website.

"We have an interview with Berlusconi. That's our splash at midnight tonight," Arianna Huffington, the Greek-born co-founder of the U.S.-based website told Reuters on Monday.

The launch of huffingtonpost.it on Tuesday could bring a breath of fresh air into an Italian media landscape dominated by Berlusconi's media empire.

It also comes at a critical time for a country where economic austerity measures have begun to hit hard less than a year before the next general election, when the electorate will pass judgement on Berlusconi's successor Mario Monti.

Huffington gave no more details about the Berlusconi interview, but said the new website will be a "hybrid" mixing the best of the Post's digital mastery with Italy's journalistic tradition.

Like the flagship U.S. edition, the local version of the news-and opinion website will seek to become an interactive experience for readers with a mix of news and opinion, using blogs, photographs and video.

It will also aim to "capture the Italian spirit" by devoting space to Italian culture and innovation.

"Unemployment in Italy is a major problem. We want to give a voice to people who are out of a job, but also to those who have solutions," she said. "We will hear both from experts and from people so we can put flesh and blood on the data."

L'Huffington Post Italia, launched in partnership with leading Italian newspapers and magazines publisher Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, will be directed by veteran journalist Lucia Annunziata and ran entirely by Italians.

Italy is the fifth country outside the United States where the Huffington Post has landed, but strong visitor data is fuelling an ambition for further expansion.

"We'd like to be in all major languages in the world. Next country for launch is Germany, then Brazil, India, Japan and South Korea," Huffington said.

According to the latest comScore report, traffic for HuffPost.com in the U.S. is now at 43.8 million unique viewers (UVs), a 19 percent rise on the year.

In time for its one year anniversary, HuffPost UK hit 4.6 million, while HuffPost France has just hit 2.2 million UVs.

The Huffington Post, purchased by AOL for $315 million last February, has launched sites in Canada, Britain, France and Spain.

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