Newspaper publishers should study last week’s purchase by AOL of the Huffington Post for $315 million. Isn’t this an era when newspapers are failing? How did HuffPo, which started with $1 million in funding in 2005, grow so fast? The answer is HuffPo doesn’t think like a newspaper. Much of HuffPo’s content is created by bloggers for free. Articles are optimized (SEO‘d) for Google search. Keywords are posted above articles to drive Google SERP rankings. Sharing and tweeting of articles is encouraged. Live blogs and comment streams from readers run alongside articles to be shared and retweeted. As a result, the New York Times reports, 35 percent of the Huffington Post’s traffic comes from SEO. Perhaps coincidentally, January saw the IPO of Demand Media, a company that identifies topics with high advertising potential (via search engine query data and bids on ad auctions) and then creates and delivers that content via owned and operated sites like eHow. This puts Demand Media in a similar category as Associated Content and AOL’s Seed, platforms that accept submissions from writers and photographers who get paid for each work submitted. Some traditional journalists find these models unseemly, because they turn the traditional journalism model on its head. Articles are created based on reader search patterns by freelancers and bloggers instead of based on what professional journalists deem newsworthy. But these models succeed because they leverage the strengths of the web. The web puts power in the hands of users. These models recognize that search and social sharing are the expressions of user demand. If newspapers continue to deliver only what they consider fit to print, they will continue to watch online upstarts benefit at their expense.