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BuzzFeed Effect – Have Old Media Lost the Digital Battle?

Is this the most efficient and attractive title that makes an average reader click on an article or should I have chosen « Ten Facts on Buzzfeed’s Success That Will Blow Your Mind »?  As a generation constantly bombarded by information from a variety of sources, we have less time (and interest for that matter) to spare for long articles and elaborate argumentation provided by traditional media. This is where what I would like to call the BuzzFeed Effect comes in handy and manages to appeal to a broader readership. For instance, Buzzfeed has an average of 130 million monthly unique visitors while The New York Times, the most visited newspaper website, has 32 million (figures from 2013).

What exactly is the BuzzFeed Effect? It can be defined as the simplification and summarization trend in publishing and broadcasting with the extensive use of photos, listicles (articles in form of a list) and GIF animations. The model includes other websites than BuzzFeed, namely Mashable, Gawker and Upworthy. As for what they have accomplished so far, Buzzfeed was able to hire journalists from The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize Winner editor while launching a foreign news vertical, BuzzFeed World at the same time. The section covers a variety of current events, not in terms of regions (as in the traditional media) but of themes. While the content looks readily professional the readers will see on the right column articles “buzzing” at the moment instead of what traditional media websites would suggest; similar articles on the same issue. So you may end up clicking “41 Reasons Eating Pizza Is Better Than Being in a Relationship” after reading an Op-ed on illegal immigration to Europe.

All those visitors’ figures aside, is BuzzFeed actually doing well? They keep on hiring investigative journalists and raising new venture capitals (amounting to $20 million as of 2013). They inspire senior American journalists such as Ezra Klein to found news websites with a similar concept. On the other hand, traditional news platforms such as The Washington Post or Libération in France suffer from financial problems. More inventive ones opted for paywalls to secure their revenues. Eventually, as long as we love procrastinating online by reading a variety of serious and fun content BuzzFeed and its analogs will continue to exist and challenge traditional media platforms by their creative and simple layouts.


Image source: Flickr

Bilal Müftüoğlu

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