This is what happens when algorithms decide your news agenda…
This is what happens when algorithms decide your news agenda…
Buzzfeed’s top trending stories feel a bit ‘samey’, formulaicly bland with a made-on-a-production line ‘taste’. These are from their UK top trending 20 at the time of going to pixel. Is it Guido or are they running out of ideas?
The headlines will no doubt have been run through a data driven algorithm and optimised to death for SEO and clickbait performance. Are they actually native advertising? (Buzzfeed has got into trouble for running unflagged adverts as editorial in the past.) Pizza, Nandos, Subway, McDonalds – Guido just put those words in the text to see if we too get a load of trash traffic. Does Chipotle even have a restaurant open in the UK?
UPDATE: Chipotle apparently does have restaurants in the UK and this just in at 5:
CNN has condemned Buzzfeed for publishing the unverified Trump dossier and spoiling their more careful reporting of allegations against the President-Elect:
“CNN’s decision to publish carefully sourced reporting about the operations of our government is vastly different than Buzzfeed’s decision to publish unsubstantiated memos. The Trump team knows this. They are using Buzzfeed’s decision to deflect from CNN’s reporting, which has been matched by the other major news organizations.
We are fully confident in our reporting. It represents the core of what the First Amendment protects, informing the people of the inner workings of their government; in this case, briefing materials prepared for President Obama and President-elect Trump last week.
We made it clear that we were not publishing any of the details of the 35-page document because we have not corroborated the report’s allegations. Given that members of the Trump transition team have so vocally criticized our reporting, we encourage them to identify, specifically, what they believe to be inaccurate.”
Big fight between two liberal media outlets, even more pressure on Buzzfeed’s decision to publish now…
Editor @BuzzFeedBen tells me they’re “not going to participate in an attempt to divide the media against each other” following CNN criticism
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) January 11, 2017
“Buzzfeed is a failing pile of garbage” – Donald Trump pic.twitter.com/IJgEZV01ih
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) January 11, 2017
The President-Elect says BuzzFeed “is a failing pile of garbage”, then refuses to take a question from CNN because: “You are fake news.”
Donald Trump refuses answer questions from CNN calling them fake news https://t.co/aq0gwA0SAI
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 11, 2017
And responds to the Beeb: “BBC? That’s another beauty.”
“BBC News. That’s another beauty” pic.twitter.com/I0NrKTiI3e
— Daniel Sandford (@BBCDanielS) January 11, 2017
BuzzFeed have stuck their neck out publishing what they admit are unverified allegations about Trump in Russia. Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith emailed staff to explain this extra-ordinary departure from the usual journalistic norms:
From: Ben Smith
As you have probably seen. this evening we published a secret dossier making explosive and unveriﬁed allegations about Donald Trump and Russia. I wanted to brieﬂy explain to you how we made the decision to publish it.
We published the dossier, which Ken Bensinger obtained through his characteristically ferocious reporting, so that, as we wrote, “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”
Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers. We have always erred on the side of publishing. In this case, the document was in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media. It seems to lie behind a set of vague allegations from the Senate Majority Leader to the director of the FBI and a report that intelligence agencies have delivered to the president and president-elect.
As we noted in our story, there is serious reason to doubt the allegations. We have been chasing speciﬁc claims in this document for weeks, and will continue to.
Publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, and people of good will may disagree with our choice. But publishing this dossier reﬂects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.
Ben actually disses his own story, which they have been unable to stand up. Would the New York Times have published this – no. Would Guido have published it? Possibly, if we thought the source was credible enough. Imagine if we published a story about a union leader consorting with a prostitute based on widely circulating rumours and off the record briefings, naming no names and getting no affidavits or pictures. Would that be credible?
BuzzFeed have jumped on the outrage bus and attacked the Telegraph for naming the 89 MPs who voted against Article 50. Under the headline “The Telegraph Listed 89 Anti-Brexit MPs And People Are Not Impressed”, BuzzFeed says it is irresponsible to shame MPs in this way, suggesting it could inspire reprisals. Just like BuzzFeed did with its story “These Are The MPs Who Voted Against Accepting Child Refugees From Europe”. And its story “Here Are The Labour MPs Refusing To Serve In Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet”. According to BuzzFeed, lists naming and shaming MPs are irresponsible when it’s about Brexit but not when it’s a cause that suits their own right-on editorial values…
Shots fired from one time Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith at the occasionally Corbyn-sympathetic Buzzfeed this morning:
Buzzfeed’s political editor hits back:
Other Buzzfeed staff are responding by tweeting their entire back catalogue of negative stories about Smith:
To be fair to Buzzfeed, they command more respect in Westminster than Owen Smith…
Guido understands that Buzzfeed UK has booked a “middling six-figure profit”, is breaking even in Germany and making six-figure losses in Brazil, France and Spain. Congratulations…
An internal Guardian investigation has blasted the paper’s editors for publishing the original Traingate story by a freelance journalist who turned out to be a Trot. The Guardian readers’ editor rubbishes the article as “a kind of gonzo news release by two Corbyn supporters”, concluding that the paper “misled” its readers and that editors’ “pre-publication checks and balances failed”. Turns out the freelance filmmaker who shot the pictures of the Labour leader sitting on the floor was being paid by the Jeremy For Leader campaign. The Trotskyite freelance journalist who wrote the story wasn’t even on the train. The authors first pitched their pro-Jez propaganda to BuzzFeed, who embarrassingly for the Guardian smelled a rat and turned it down. Standards at Kings Place were alas significantly lower…
And she was a Remainer. WTF?
The Financial Times reports that Buzzfeed fell short of its 2015 revenue target by 30% and has slashed its 2016 target by 50%. It took Guido 4 years to make a profit. No one ever said it was easy, overnight success generally takes years. Buzzfeed, the cool new kid on the block, has been going 9 years without making a profit. Nine years…
During those 9 years it has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars without paying investors a cent back. Smart people buy into the Buzzfeed concept, that it can reach millenials on their phones and on social networks with viral content as well as disguised advertising in the form of snarky content. They also have a conventional website famous for cat videos and lists. To make advertisers feel better about the online context of their paid content, Buzzfeed has branched out into serious content from serious journalists, with serious investigations and even some politics. It gives the Buzzfeed brand more journalistic credibility. Which goes comparatively unread.
Business Insider, Huffington Post and Vice News are all engaged in an online land grab, promising investors they will grab the global audience first and make profits later. Business Insider sold to Axel Springer for a cool $442 million last year. Outside the US it was not making a profit – though Insiders told Guido they were no longer losing money in London. Insider has a model that makes sense, aiming at time-pressed people interested in business. HuffPo aims to maximise traffic through aggregation and SEO optimisation, selling conventional display advertising – the AOL parent has a massive digital advertising sales operation. Vice is apparently to the millenial generation what MTV was to their parents and appears to be making money hand over fist.
The risk for Buzzfeed investors is that people no longer want the funny GIFs once they graduate, get a job and get busy. This leaves them with teenage “trash-traffic” of appeal only to generic advertisers who won’t pay high prices. Advertisers also worry, now that the novelty has worn off, that the advertorials don’t work or worse still, don’t fit their advertising goals.
Buzzfeed UK are taking on a new reporter with a “special interest in Muslim issues”, who must be fluent in either Bengali, Urdu, or Arabic and have a “strong list of contacts and sources within the Muslim community”. Perks of the job? They’re offering the successful candidate free beer once a month…
No shortage of beer-loving Arabic, Bengali and Urdu speakers who could apply…
It wouldn’t be the British Journalism Awards without a good old barney about the nominations. Newsnight and Buzzfeed are jointly nominated for Investigation of the Year for the Kids Co scandal – a story on which they did a lot of good follow-up work but was broken by Miles Goslett in the Speccie. Five months earlier…
Buzzfeed’s ‘Head of News’ Stuart Millar is probably regretting engaging:
Media organisations can pay £75 for a vanity-satisfying nomination, something Newsnight and Buzzfeed apparently wasted no time in doing but Miles Goslett, who is a freelancer, didn’t. As Goslett explains:
“Until February 2015, when The Spectator published my article on Kids Company, not a single bad word about it or its chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh had appeared in the mainstream media.”
You can read the original Goslett scoop here…
The Guardian’s head of news is the latest to twig that former colleagues who’ve jumped to Buzzfeed are getting paid more money for less work:
Millar joins Janine Gibson and James Ball as part of the ongoing exodus from Kings Place to their more productivity-relaxed internet alter ego.[…] Read the rest
Confirming Buzzfeed’s status as the growing place where disappointed hacks retreat for more money and less work, Janine Gibson is off to do “serious news” as their editor-in-chief.
In a swift update to his Twitter bio, current editor Luke Lewis has been forced sideways to be Executive Editor.[…] Read the rest
Following Media Guido’s revelation that Buzzfeed deleted a negative article about the board game Monopoly just a month after entering a lucrative sponsored content deal with Monopoly’s owner Hasbro, Techno Guido can report that Buzzfeed inserted computer code into their website that forced Google and Wayback Machine into hiding the deleted article from their cache:
This stops people from viewing an article critical of one its sponsored content ‘collaborators’ and even prevents people who search for the article to see that it existed.[…] Read the rest