Sunday, September 18, 2016

BuzzFeed, The Hybrid

Cullen Quigley

Star Tribune Editorial Cartoon - Steve Sack
Will BuzzFeed survive?

It's a true question of credibility vs. entertainment. BuzzFeed is the insanely influential media machine that has been notoriously known for its online quizzes, relatable content, viral videos, and every variation of list you could imagine. The problem? Most of the population views BuzzFeed as an entertainment branded media outlet used to save you from boredom in moments of free time.

If you pull up BuzzFeed today, your eyes will quickly scan their leading headline "'An Intentional Act'" referencing the Chelsea, New York City neighborhood bombing that injured 29 people. The next leading story is "51 Thoughts I've Had Trying To Take A Hot Selfie." Do you see the dilemma?

BuzzFeed is currently in a transitioning period, trying to declare its identity to an audience that thinks they've already labeled the company correctly. While BuzzFeed strives to be a credible, efficient, and a newsworthy media source, it continues to battle a persona that a news organization can't be "news" AND "entertainment." BuzzFeed is a hybrid media outlet that is redefining what the media can produce and distribute, all under one roof.

The Changes Have Come

As of August 23, 2016, BuzzFeed officially announced that it would split into two distinct media departments : BuzzFeed News and BuzzFeed Entertainment Group (BFEG). While BFEG is led under the control of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures President Ze Frank, BuzzFeed News will be under the leadership of BuzzFeed Editor-In-Chief, Ben Smith.

Both discussed in their interview with Vanity Fair that the split derives from a push to become the leading brand of mobility and organization within a vast amount of content. This change to mobile friendly is still fairly new territory as technology and social media interaction are outpacing traditional journalistic norms.

Is BuzzFeed smart in making the move to split into two departments, or has entertainment already won?

Worry About It Later

Media of today is becoming more concerned with speed and being first vs. accurate information. As everyone can tweet something the second it happens, competition to gain the most traction is bigger than ever. However, where does a journalist sacrifice credibility in a dash to the finish line?

In the Columbia Journalism Review article, "Who Cares If It's True?," many points are discussed in regard to the Internet being at blame. Media outlets are relying on the Internet to correct itself, focusing on editing the information later or filling news feeds with updates that can confirm information as it happens.

Other outlets, like the York Daily Record, recognized that they couldn't keep up with the updates, so they referred to using hashtags to integrate into their reporting. A hashtag clumps everything in one place for easy access to the audience via social media. This equal representation between the media outlet itself, the public, and the world of social media is a new concept no matter how tech savvy people claim to be.

However, when looking at BuzzFeed, you can guarantee that the company will look to take all of these aspects into consideration. Being relatable may be their strength now, but hopefully being credible with more serious topics will become an integral part of their identity in the future. BuzzFeed is still a fledgling in this new media territory, but can't be disregarded any longer as a trivial source in the media landscape.

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