Nobody got around to posting about yesterday’s big media news, Ben Smith’s move to Buzzfeed, where he’ll curate a site that has this as its #2 featured story this morning:
If you’ve looked at Politico lately, it’s hard to argue that Smith didn’t make a move up.
Smith’s move is getting huge coverage by other journalists because they all know that click whoring is one of the few economically viable paths for modern journalism. Politico does it, and Smith is good at it, so it makes sense that he’d be picked to run a site that does nothing but put out click bait. Smith’s a big name, and BuzzFeed is proud to get him, so we get jabber like this:
[Buzzfeed co-founder] Peretti went on to explain how BuzzFeed’s small team of editors has already started to come up with new ways of reporting that involve not only covering stories but engaging in them as they happen. The best example he offered was the coordinated effort spearheaded by BuzzFeed that brought dozens of people to People‘s doorstep with RyGos face masks to protest the magazine’s not naming Ryan Gosling as the Sexiest Man Alive this year. Imagine a more serious future in which BuzzFeed readers show up on the campaign trail with masks.
Tell you what: let’s not imagine a future that stupid, and just deal with it if it happens.
All this talk of “engagement” is just an effort by Buzzfeed’s founders to obscure the fact that their type of media outlet has been with us since the dawn of the printing press. There’s always been a huge market for human interest stories, the lighter side of news, and for the lowest, silliest stories about politics. Buzzfeed will be successful because people like to look at pictures of fuzzy bunnies and cute kittens first thing in the morning, and they love hearing that Rick Perry thinks Solyndra is a country (Buzzfeed’s current #2 “hotlist” story) . Ben Smith knows exactly which kinds of kittens and politicians will get clicks, so he’ll be successful at Buzzfeed. It’s not that complicated, and it sure as hell isn’t a revolution in journalism.