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Buzzfeed Update: Beyond the Punching Bag

Up to this point, we’ve bashed on BuzzFeed a fair amount. Historically, the site played punching bag to media snobs who prefer the New York Times and the Washington Post to lesser news outlets.

Things have changed, however. The International Symposium on Online Journalism showed some new data demonstrating the BuzzFeed now acts a bit more like a traditional news operation. 

“. . . BuzzFeed has gradually adopted routines resulting in more hard news stories, thus beginning to appear like other more “mature” news organizations. . . BuzzFeed is featuring more sources, more hard news.”

Interestingly, BuzzFeed, which is a digital-only news source, reported a net profit of $2.7 million for the first half of 2014. That’s a significant number for a news organization. Most newspapers across the country report significant losses, and many are flirting with bankruptcy. That profitability wasn’t unnoticed. NBCUniversal invested $200 million in BuzzFeed in 2015. That’s also a bit staggering and certainly notable, because now BuzzFeed has to answer to the powers that be at NBC. And, as we’ll discover moving forward, NBC isn’t the most pristine of news outlets when it comes to knuckling under to political pressure and running news that’s clearly native advertising. All these publications and digital outlets succumb to the same advertising pressure the big networks caved into over the decades.

Here’s the link to the full report from ISOJ: http://bit.ly/2r9reIf

The report details a BuzzFeed interview with President Obama in 2015 titled “BuzzFeed Presents: Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About.” The video, in which Obama mugs on camera and eventually promotes a deadline to sign up for Obamacare, got more than 22 million views on YouTube. As noted in the report, this is the kind of integrated digital media that reaches millennials, an audience coveted by old-guard media like NBC. The report noted: “. . it is hard to imagine a similar video could have been produced by a legacy media company such as The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.” Truth is, BuzzFeed is now becoming very similar to those traditional outlets. They just use snazzier headlines and have serious clickbait skills on their editorial staff.

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