Updated: Bonjour! AOL Takes French Le Huffington Post Live

Huffington Post today took one more step in its ongoing march for a wider international reach: it has now officially opened Le Huffington Post for business. This is not the first non-U.S. edition of the news site, but it is the first to produce the content in partnership with an established media organization — in this case, two: the Le Monde Group and Les Nouvelles Editions Ind├ępendante.
It’s worth watching how Le Huffington Post develops, since AOL (NYSE: AOL) and the Huffington Post Media Group are following the partnership pattern with other non-English launches later this year.
The blog will team up with El Pais in Spain for a Spanish edition, which is coming online in March. And — as we first reported last week — it will also launch an Italian site with L’Espresso.
It’s not known how AOL structures its business relationships with HuffPo partners, but paidContent understands that the French groups all share equal equity in the Le Huffington Post. None of the parties have confirmed this, however.
The original, HuffingtonPost.com, has become one of the most popular news sites in the U.S., and one of the most-visited of all sites. Figures from June 2011 showed that it had actually surpassed the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) as the most popular news site in the country. We have contacted comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) for more recent figures and will update this post when we get them.
Update: comScore tells us that in fact in the month of December, HuffingtonPost.com was visited more than any newspaper site in the U.S., with six million more unique visitors than the next-biggest brand, the New York Times — although if you added in other properties like NYT’s About.com, the New York Times’ group would have about 76.5 million uniques. Meanwhile, in the UK, HuffPo.co.uk is at number-11 at the moment. The full tables ranking popular sites in the U.S. and UK are at the end of this post. [original post continues below]
Before today, HuffPo had launched two other international editions — both in English — HuffingtonPost.ca in Canada, and HuffingtonPost.co.uk in the UK.
Both of these were launched on HuffPo’s own steam, without a helping hand from a local partner. That may have been easier to do: given the common English language across the three territories, it’s likely that Canada and the UK were already bringing in some traffic to the U.S. site, and so were natural first-efforts in an international strategy.
Some have wondered if HuffPo could succeed in the UK, however, because the many established UK national dailies already have a strong culture of opinion-led journalism — the kind that has become a popular mainstay of blogging and forms a cornerstone of HuffPo’s success in the U.S. (one other being a lot of aggregation, a one-stop shop for news; another being a sheer proliferation of content, much of it written for free).
It’s perhaps unfair to compare HuffingtonPost.co.uk against other news sites, only six months into its existence. Worth pointing out that AOL, citing figures from comScore, says that traffic on the UK site has been growing steadily since launching in the summer of 2011:
“HuffPost UK currently has 4.1 million 3.5 million unique visitors,” a spokesperson told paidContent in an email, “and has grown nearly 50 percent since it launched six months ago. The site has a large, vibrant group blog, with an expanding roster of 2,500 people who have used its blogging platform, including Tony Blair, Jeremy Hunt, Noel Gallagher, Liz Hurley, Joanna Lumley and Ricky Gervais. Engagement is also strong and growing, with users posting a record 7,000 comments on a single day last week.”
Update 2: That 4.1 million figure is higher than comScore’s numbers detailed below because it includes incoming traffic from outside the UK, while comScore’s numbers measure only UK-based traffic. [original post follows below]
HuffPo first announced its partnership with Le Monde and LNEI in October 2010 — meaning that it is moving quick on getting these products to market once making them public. This is only one part of the company’s Francophonic strategy, though: the Canadian HuffPo is apparently also launching a Quebec edition of HuffingtonPost.ca this month, too.

Source: comScore