What’s going on at BuzzFeed? Below is a video from March 19th of BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti (who also helped to start Huffington Post) explaining the expansion of BuzzFeed beyond viral aggregation.
What’s interesting to me about the video is Peretti’s idea that “social media has grown up.” So he traces the evolution of the kind of content that people typically used to share on Facebook – primarily “personal news” – to funny/viral content and then finally onto hard news and original reporting.
“People have started to get all of their news, all of their content, from social media. So we have evolved with that trend.” It’s this recent development, he says, that has encouraged BuzzFeed to hire writers who will produce original content, do reporting and break stories. I hadn’t realized that the expansion involved new “verticals” that weren’t just for Politics: Peretti mentions the new section for tech news that has recently started on the site.
There’s this interesting mix of vocabulary that Peretti uses throughout the interview that I think gets to the heart of the question I have about BuzzFeed’s expansion – how is it mixing “viral” culture, which thrives on aggregation, with what Peretti calls “the kind of work reporters love to do, where they dig in on a story – they’re not just aggregating”?
In combining these two alternating visions of the site – one which thrives on “human reactions” to stories (with the “OMG” “LOL” “WTF?” badges that are plastered throughout the site), another which depends on hard, original reporting – Peretti is adamant that BuzzFeed will become the “definitive social publishing site.” The guiding principle here is that readers are now so used to seeing these two sides (viral/memes and hard news) mixed together on Twitter/Facebook that they will want to see them all in the same place anyway. But I’m asking whether that crossover is actually happening, or is the new Politics section simply existing as a separate limb entirely?