Buzzfeed, as used in the headline, is as much a metaphor for today’s multi-platform content generation distribution platforms as it is the name of a website whose most read article last week was probably something along the lines of ‘Which Pokemon’s Evolution Most Reflects Your Transition Through Puberty?’
And that’s not a knock on Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed, and the hundreds of publications like it, have simply adapted a publishing model most aligned with our content consumption habits.
As Last Week Tonight host John Oliver illustrates in his most recent episode, letting audiences dictate how publishers choose and distribute their content is a major problem.
That print journalism is eroding isn’t news, of course, but many people are unaware why the digital shift over the past decade should be cause for concern.
As newspapers require billionaire owners to keep them financially afloat, their reporters are forced to write favourably about their new boss’ business interests. When clicks are a publication’s measure of success, coverage is dependent on what readers want – puppies, gossip, sparkles and glitter – instead of what they need. (“News organizations badly need to have leaders who appreciate that what’s popular isn’t always what’s most important”).
And with reporters now responsible for tweeting, producing videos, taking photos, and essentially covering all bases of content production themselves, there’s less time for accurate reporting. As The Wire creator and former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon notes, having less reporters on the ground creates a playground for political corruption.
Oh, and you’re part of the problem too; the person watching on YouTube using the WiFi from the coffee shop under your apartment (John’s words).
The more we refuse to accept that quality journalism is worth paying for, the more we’ll see publications forced to adapt content rather than produce it themselves. A cat video on Elite Daily is fine; a cat video on the homepage of the New York Times, Der Spiegel, and Al Jazeera adapted from Elite Daily is a wet dream for the press secretaries of our world’s dictators.
Just look at the story of Millennials having less sex than any other young generation that we adapted from The Washington Post – you’ll also find varying takes of the same report on Business Insider, CNN, and the LA Times. Surely any of these publications would have loved to assign a reporter to Millennials’ bedrooms for a deeper dive into a telling revelation about our generation. News about Burger King’s Wopper Burrito isn’t going to tweet itself, though.
It’s a lot to grasp, so if you came here expecting a story about cats on a pile of wood only to be confronted by an issue of immense gravity, be sure to stick around the Oliver’s hilarious skit at the end of the segment…