Welcome to the world of journalism in 2013 -- where lists pop up seemingly on every website. If you want to connect with readers on the Internet, concoct a piece discussing 5 or 10 or 27 ways to recognize a Wisconsin grad or a resident of New Jersey or lessons that a TV how taught us or ...
You get the picture.
Buzzfeed primarily has advanced the new art of List Journalism. Buzzfeed does a brilliant job of tapping into the zeitgeist and meeting the curiosity of readers with lists about everything under the sun. It's fun. It's harmless. It's disposable.
But is it journalism?
Does it really matter?
Is People real journalism? Or Harvey Levin's celebrity gawking? Or Gawker?
It's good business, for sure, to exploit our obsession with the celebrity culture and give it back to readers in lively, easy-to-digest stories.
A lot of people cry that an operation like Buzzfeed is Not Real Journalism. Maybe it isn't, if your frame of reference is to judge Journalism as it was in the pre-internet age. But so what? If you feel that way, it's your problem, not Buzzfeed's.
When it was starting out, Rolling Stone, we will remember, used to offer roach clips to people as an inducement to subscribe to the magazine (I bet the New Yorker had never thought of doing that!). Today, Rolling Stone is getting exclusive interviews with President Barack Obama (and presumably without any mention of a roach clip in the bargain).
I don't know necessarily think this new genre signals the End of Western Civilization because it allegedly cheapens Journalism The same argument goes for the Fox News and MSNBCs of the media -- if you don't like what they're saying then just turn the channel. If you don't like what a Buzzfeed has done to my profession, then click on to another site or an old-fashioned breaking-news site. You have that right.
Who knows if a hot site like Buzzfeed will have staying power. Its management seems serious about having a lasting impact. (Of course, lots of sites felt the same way before the meltdown in 2000 and the tech industry's bubble burst.)
If you follow Facebook regularly, you can see Buzzfeed's wide influence. People re-post the site's items and say they "love" the content -- that's rare, and impressive.
Maybe someday the editor in chief of Buzzfeed will receive an audience with the President of the United States. I can see the headline now:
"POTUS Reveals 17 Things That He Learned From Watching 'The Mod Squad' On Friday Nights"
I think that would be pretty cool, too.