Five Reactions to Buzzfeed that actually require some thought

Chris Gelardi


With the rapid and impending digitalization of media, news and entertainment website Buzzfeed has quickly established itself as one of the top tycoons of the industry.

 Its model of alluring titles, bubbly formatting, inoffensive content and easy reading has paved the way for the future of digital consumer media. Its business model based on sponsored content has been adopted by numerous other online media outlets, helping struggling information sources that formerly depended on print subscriptions and advertising space to revitalize their businesses.

However, as with all things that explode in popularity, we as consumers must take a closer look at what hidden effects Buzzfeed’s influence may have on our society. 

Like fossil fuels in the 1970’s or genetically modified organisms today, we do not yet exactly know how this new model of online media will affect our lives both on a personal and a societal scale. 

If we wish to prevent future cultural harm, it is crucial that we think more critically about the issue of Buzzfeed and the movement toward media digitalization. With that in mind, here are a few Buzzfeed-inspired points to provide some food for critical thought:

1.The Buzzfeed Formula: Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I was just given a topic, I bet I could make a convincing Buzzfeed article out of it?” 

Well, you probably could, because the Buzzfeed formula is pretty easy to replicate. Whether it’s a news article, a quiz, an entertainment feature, a do-it-yourself recommendation or “Buzz” (whatever that is), the format is nearly always the same. It starts with a list—either main points of a summary or just random things that fit a topic. 

Then BuzzFeed simplifies the wording of what might have been a well-organized and informative piece and fades information and hard facts into easy-to-understand statements of relativity. 

Finally, it adds a picture to each list point, big bold fonts and a sensational title for some flair. 

Sound familiar? Coining this formula allows Buzzfeed to hire low-talent writers to produce thousands of low-quality but brainlessly enticing articles on whatever might be pop culture at any given minute.

2. Bad Journalism: This characteristic—low-quality but brainlessly enticing articles—is signature of bad journalism, and poor writing in general. 

Instead of seeking to inform and liberate its audience, or even to stimulate and entertain, Buzzfeed has reduced itself to a hit-seeking enterprise of mind-numbing sensationalism. 

In churning out countless articles of no substance, it reduces the level of critical thinking and raises the level of the most basic sensory stimulation to that of a child, preying on and intensifying an American culture of indifference.

3. The Buzzfeed Addiction: In a way, Buzzfeed has made its own a model of sensational media that was normalized by the popular American news channel CNN. 

CNN’s model of making all news “breaking news” and relying on hours and hours of over-speculation and hype to keep watchers reeled in on one relatively insignificant story has kept their ratings up and advertising revenue rolling in over the years. 

Who could forget the nonstop coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight and the ridiculous lengths to which CNN went to keep producing “new updates” on the story? 

This model hooks many CNN watchers, always eager to engage in gossip on the new speculation. 

Buzzfeed has taken the CNN addiction and evolved it to meet the fast pace of the internet. Instead of hooking its readers into religiously following one story, it introduces so much new content that readers can’t keep up. And instead of making everything seem important by labelling it all “breaking news,”Buzzfeed manufactures in its readers a fear of missing out by titling all of its articles in the superlative. 

Who doesn’t want to see “the cutest thing in the history of the world” or “the most mind-blowing facts you’ll hear all day?”

4. Paving the Way: In this way Buzzfeed has set the standard for online media outlets trying to increase revenue. 

Huffington Post, for example, a formerly respectable editorial source, has resorted to “listicles” and cat video-esque, Buzzfeed-inspired articles to fill its webpages.

 And with the impending extinction of paid subscriptions and decreasing consumer tolerance for advertising space on websites, the large media suppliers have to reel in the pop culture crowd if they wish to compete like they always have.

5. Sponsored Content: However, another way to bring in the revenue is through sponsored content, also known as native advertising, and it has increased in popularity with the rise of the Buzzfeed model. Native advertising, in a nutshell, is the camouflaging of an advertisement as a real article, and it is the arguably the most concerning effect of media digitalization. 

Have you ever visited a Buzzfeed article and seen a peculiarly placed logo of a nonrelated company? 

Usually that is an indicator that the article is not actually an editorial brainchild of the media outlet, but rather it is a sponsored piece commissioned by a company to advertise into the unconscious of the consumer. 

For example, a recent Buzzfeed quiz entitled “What Kind of Engineer Should You Be?” was sponsored by ExxonMobil, and more times than not the result of the quiz was “Environmental Engineer.”

It is a form of deception that all but erases the line between editorial and advertising, and, shockingly, it makes up 100 percent of Buzzfeed’s revenue.

With these revelations it becomes apparent that, just like any other technological revolution, there exist adverse cultural side effects to media digitalization. 

As we are in the midst of a technological boom the likes of which have never been seen before at any point in history, it is crucial for us as a society to take a step back every once in a while to reevaluate so that we may not end up living in a world where the only conceivable form of literature is in lists.