Do media brands mean as much today as they used to?
Observers, I imagine have been asking this question for decades. But it takes on a fresh urgency with the ascent of Buzzfeed. The company has established itself as a worthy alternative to daily newspapers and newsy websites by generating an innovating approach to presenting "content" on the Internet.
It's not only about breaking a news story a nanosecond ahead of your competition any more. BuzzFeed has created a, well, buzz by outsmarting the other guys, who sometimes look doddering as they try to look hip in the digital age. II know the feeling, too)..
The media establishment has a problem, though, in constantly playing catch-up to the trendier brands. It is forever lagging behind and trying to copy what has suddenly become successful. Celebrities tend to come and go -- remember Britney Spears a long time ago when was the Internet train-wreck du jour? A media organization can no longer flourish by recycling the escapades of someone who has already appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone or the Times' Sunday Magazine.
Interestingly, BuzzFeed -- assuming it lasts for a while -- can have an even more far-reaching effect on the media ecosystem. It can fulfill the New York Times' traditional role of leading the coverage on television news shows. Yes, the Times will continue to direct the content on The CBS Evening News and Meet the Press, but on the cable shows, it will be the new kinds on the block.
Cable channels are beasts that must constantly be fed and the new kind of content supplies a steady stream of celebrity nonsense, YouTube-friendly fluff and pithy Twitter insights feed the odd investigative exploration that gives a web site gravitas, one story at a time.
It's easy to dismiss BuzzFeed as a flash in the pan -- but it would be foolish and premature. It's a genuine brand. I bet that the college students who are right now hatching plans to launch The Next Big Thing are drawing more inspiration from BuzzFeed than from the Times' Week in Review section every Sunday.
Today, nimble brands are better suited to the bloodless digital revolution. You can't turn a battleship like a tradition-bound daily newspaper. And these brands run the risk of looking slightly ridiculous the more that they try to convince us that they're hip.
Today, the buzz comes from wherever you can find it.