This is what we should fight about when we fight about BuzzFeed

In the mini-hubub that came after Ben Smith’s “we don’t do clickbait” piece last week, it became clear that we haven’t yet settled on which arguments we want to have about BuzzFeed, the massively successful and every day more ambitious viral media machine.

And it’s worth having the BuzzFeed fight right. It’s huge. It’s well-funded. It’s increasingly becoming one of the most ambitious newsrooms in the country. Most importantly, BuzzFeed is the most sophisticated citizen of FacebookWorld. And now that Facebook is the most powerful distributor of digital media and therefore the de facto arbiter of what consumers want and what publishers should produce, we all live in FacebookWorld. So we should fight well about BuzzFeed in order to understand FacebookWorld.

The challenge of FacebookWorld looks like this:

And so the fights we should have about BuzzFeed should be:

1. How much is left out of FacebookWorld?

2. Has BuzzFeed grown beyond FacebookWorld?

But in the last year, the site has invested in international reporting, longform features, and investigative reporting. This is pretty traditional A circle, maybe some of which sneaks over into the B section of the graph some of the time, but probably not predictably and only after a lot of $ has been spent.

3. Can BuzzFeed sustain a news mission and a FacebookWorld mission simultaneously?

4. Will consumers go for a serious news business with the same name as a FacebookWorld business?

5. Where will the $$ lead them?

6. Can BuzzFeed make more real news play in FacebookWorld?

7. Is FacebookWorld a place we want to live?

Chief Content Officer, WNYC. Previously Vox, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE, etc.

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