I’ve been catching up on Tomorrow, the pretty great new podcast from Joshua Topolsky of Bloomberg Digital. Episode 4 is a deep-journalism geek-out between Topolsky and Shani Hilton of BuzzFeed that features this interesting exchange:
Topolsky: “Buzzfeed’s doing this really hard, serious journalism that feels out-of-sync with the other stuff BuzzFeed does. And I feel like –”
Hilton: “In what way is it out of sync?”
Topolsky: “Well, it just feels like there’s two different entities. There’s BuzzFeed that’s fun and viral and weird and, you know, it’s the BuzzFeed you think of as ‘the original BuzzFeed.’ And then there’s the news piece of it which is very serious and those two things just don’t go together.”
They sparred over this topic for a while before half-heartedly sliding into another discussion – which is kind of perfect when you think about it.
From an advertising perspective, BuzzFeed is super compelling because they have built an organism capable of producing the best native advertising campaigns around. From a journalism standpoint, BuzzFeed is super compelling because they have, in just three years, built a legitimate news organization that:
- has ongoing, first-person reporting in Baltimore,
- can do beautifully designed and illustrated features based on heavy reporting of a twenty-year case history,
- can take a case of everyday stolen property and turn it into the most fun, heartwarming travelogue ever,
- and breaks big stories on the reg.
And finally, from an investment standpoint, BuzzFeed is super compelling because it gets paid like a media company, but it scales like a tech company. Oh, and they make more than 50 videos a week and have passed one million monthly video views.
10 lbs. crap, 8 lb. bag
With so many facets to the organization, it’s no surprise that there might be some internal conflict, some contradiction. BuzzFeed is large, it contains multitudes. And while it’s natural for readers of BuzzFeed to want those those conflicts to resolve in a way that is pleasing and expected, that’s not in the company’s DNA. I frequently tout the value of setting and meeting expectations, but sometimes the best tactic is to try and help your readers embrace the chaos you are putting in front of them.