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eric hippeau todd larsenWhen news blog Business Insider brought executives from the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal onstage this morning, co-founder Henry Blodget went ahead and asked the awkward question: In five years, will the Huffington Post be worth more than the Journal?

Blodget, who was moderating the panel at his Ignition conference in New York, had earlier said that new media and old media companies are now “neck and neck” in value. Huffington Post chief executive Eric Hippeau initially said you have to reckon with “a Rupert Murdoch” factor. The News Corp founder is leading the Wall Street Journal to experiment with new technologies, Hippeau said, so it will probably stay relevant.

As Blodget noted, that’s really a “non-answer,” so he pressed Hippeau, who gave in and said that when you look at the Wall Street Journal property alone (as opposed to all of News Corp), the answer is “probably”.

Unsurprisingly, Dow Jones president Todd Larsen disagreed, saying, “It’s highly unlikely, but you never know.” Like Hippeau, he pointed to the Journal’s experimentation with new media, which is “creating a lot of growth across [the] franchise.” The paper is even willing to risk “cannibalization” with its traditional revenue models.

Larsen acknowledged that the Journal is still pretty old-fashioned in some ways. For one thing, it’s still very interested in expanding the print product. True, print advertising isn’t growing, but it’s still “a share game” with opportunity to take marketshare from competitors, so the Journal still invests in the print product with things like local sections.

Blodget also pointed out that the Journal has been criticized for the fact that it’s very reluctant to link to articles on other websites. Larsen agreed that the Journal isn’t as “link-oriented” as other sites, and yes, it’s because it doesn’t want to be “one little stop” on the way to another websites.

Still, Larsen said, “If you go back over a five-year period, you’ve seen us do more and more.”

[photo by Owen Thomas]

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