Ehhhhh. I'm not really sure about this article. So it is... an attempt to identify BuzzFeed that ends up calling it unidentifiable while criticizing others who criticize people who criticize BuzzFeed? This may be a little too deep media, even for me, but unpacking it:
So, I don't think anyone has ever claimed BuzzFeed is somehow unassailable, people criticize it all the time. In fact it *isn't* really that well respected, even among the high media priesthood. There are clearly good pieces of it, but everyone is aware that it has many parts and some of them are complete crap. Perhaps even more than the average media company I didn't see any blow up against either of the articles referenced on my feeds, but perhaps the author has a very different follow list? I certainly didn't see BuzzFeed somehow writing in its own defense, something which one need look no further than the Gawker vs Vice escapades to see Gawker do. By criticizing people who criticize BuzzFeed, instead of taking it straight on, this just seems like a rhetorical gambit to make an unassailable argument.
The Gawker article is 100% correct, though it feels weird coming from Gawker and if people are critical of it, I have a hunch it is because many people feel its somewhat hypocritical coming from Gawker, which basically follows a similar strategy.
The Fusion article is even more awkward because Fusion is *so clearly* an attempt to duplicate whatever success BuzzFeed has. This isn't a criticism of Fusion, but it feels weird to watch because it is like seeing a clown pop out of a clown car and accuse some woman of wearing too much makeup. It's so clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black that I'm not sure why one would do it. While, as The Baffler author notes, it is reductionist, it is no less effectively a satire for that reason, but satire has to be considering time and place, and this video's time and place makes it both less interesting and less effective. As a privately funded organization with no need to raise cash while on the lifeline of old media money, it feels uncomfortably (and not just in this instance) like Fusion punches down while thinking they are punching up.
Then there is the criticism(?) of BuzzFeed tending to be too(?) willing to pivot. I'm not really sure what's to be critical of, especially when our most common criticism of old media companies are that they are too unwilling to pivot. Of all the the criticisms on display in this article, this is the least effective or interesting. So BuzzFeed is willing to change how it works in order to keep making money? ...SO? The author just leaves this hanging like it is supposed to be a criticism, but it really shouldn't be. All of the successful modern media companies on the internet (including Gawker) have gotten that way because they are equally willing to pivot.
We should celebrate this behavior because, if we're honest with ourselves, journalism and media *still* don't know how to make money on the internet. So they need to be flexible and willing to do what it takes to keep themselves in business. This is admirable, even when it fails, or leads them down terrible roads. Forbes failure, for example, isn't that it was willing to try new methodologies, it is that it stuck too long with too crappy of one and refused to see its flaws.
The sacred and the profane, the LOL and the WTF, the serious journalism and the listical. There are a lot of things we're currently unsure of in the media business but one thing we are sure of? To be a successful large media company, to support financially the cause of excellent journalism, a publisher needs most of these things in one form or another. Using non-journalism to support journalism isn't new, and is the most tired criticism of BuzzFeed (or Gawker, Fusion, VICE, etc...). The Wall Street Journal wouldn't exist without stock listings in the pre-internet age and The New York Time wouldn't exist without real estate listings. Most newspapers wouldn't have made it to the 90s to fail at the feet of Craigslist if it wasn't for classifieds.
There is plenty to criticize BuzzFeed on, the questionableness of its ability to make money should it ever leave the Venture Capital stage; its lack of transparency in business process, code and internal workings; its failure to promote the good journalism it does as well as the cat listicles. But that the company is both trying to be better journalists and make a profit via videos about trying weird food? You can be critical of it for that reason, but the criticism is just boring, overdone, and basically inaccurate.
There is no such thing as a PURE JOURNALISM COMPANY. Or at least not one that is sustainable and profitable. This is our industry's most dangerous myth, because we build false castles around this myth, because it tells us that a company can just do good journalism and make a profit without taking on the business side. If that's the author's criticism of BuzzFeed, its lack of journalistic purity, I'm not saying that they shouldn't criticize BuzzFeed, I'm saying their criticism is shit. What, BuzzFeed *shouldn't* bother to strive to be better journalists? Why the hell not? 'Because they also have Left Shark lists' isn't a good enough reason.