Here are some remarks on BuzzFeed after having tested it for some days.
First of all, it does what it promises: It feeds you with buzz.
The term buzz itself implies that there is a greater audience behind. It will not easily become a buzz when two mathematicians are discussing problems in algebra. Buzz needs a bigger number of people that talk about it and a potential to infect even more people. A buzz from the last year is no longer a buzz. BuzzFeed detects buzz before it becomes a bigger thing.
BuzzFeed is showing buzz a few moments before its tipping point. From an analytical perspective it is already clear that a new buzz is emerging, but the masses don’t know it yet. BuzzFeed is therefore an adequate means of keeping up with the public opinion and to be some eye glimpses ahead. It’s an accelerator of public discourse. But do we really need even more accelerators? Tools like BuzzFeed make it very clear that the blogosphere is a huge discourse machine and that its speed and effectiveness is growing. The whole machinery is based on the simple fact that communication is producing communication; sometimes a cascade of communication; But what is the outcome of it? Doesn’t that lead to a more and more superficial mode of communication? Does it make us more fit to face the challenges of a crazy and complex world or is it just another step to make it a bit more crazy and complex? To be honest I don’t know.
Under the bottom line – and beyond all sociological considerations (sorry I couldn’t withstand) - BuzzFeed is simply an vanguard media. It typically combines the following components:
1. Consumer Generated Media - mainly weblogs – that provide ever new content; in this case CGM is working like an armada of journalists chasing for latest news. Or to put it in other words: they work like sensor neurons in our nervous system that fire when they perceive a stimulus.
2. Analytical tools detect trends within the blogosphere. In the case of BuzzFeed these tools detect upcoming topics as patterns. Patterns mean that there’s not a chaotic sequence of “firing neurons” but there’s something going on; something that needs further interpretation.
3. Obviously these patterns are not self-explaining and require some training to interpret them. Therefore BuzzFeed hire editors to separate the wheat from the chaff and to write short introductory texts to topics they consider being upcoming and interesting enough to get featured.
BuzzFeed is therefore a hybrid media that combines a very large network of writers, computational power and human judgement. The latter seems not to be replaceable by technology and is still the key factor that makes a project juicy. We may expect many more interesting combinations of theses three components that make up new web media formats, not only including text but also podcasts and video.