I found myself going to buzzfeed.com the other day. I hadn’t been there in a very long time, and I was instantly reminded why. The content seemed stale and warmed over. It seemed like I’d read some of these same articles before. The few that looked new seemed like regurgitation of Reddit threads. It’s never a good idea to simply copy someone else’s content.
It’s been ages since I read Buzzfeed News or watched one of their videos, either. And yet I remember a time when the site was one of my daily go-to’s. It made me wonder what happened.
I ran into this video, which ironically has more views than anything that Buzzfeed has done in quite a while:
It’s a pretty harsh look, but I can’t say it’s inaccurate. If you don’t want to watch, here’s a quick overview.
Top talent left… a lot
The site simply did a very poor job of keeping their top talent. Not only that, but they made it very easy for people to get a short-term job on the site, get some followers, and move on to their own gigs. This is a recipe for long-term disaster.
The news division didn’t impress
Buzzfeed News, believe it or not, looked like it could have been a legitimate media outlet at one point. But, as trust in most forms of media dropped in the late ’10s, Buzzfeed’s partisan point of view led to it being one of the least trusted sites on the web. It’s not that they flat out lied, but their point of view was so pervasive that even people who agreed with them didn’t like reading their stuff
Changing social trends
Buzzfeed has always catered to a fairly young demographic and that means it’s going to be very hard to keep up. The site even works against itself by constantly recommending content from five or six years ago, which younger readers think looks hopelessly dated. While at one point Buzzfeed seemed inclusive and cutting-edge in its social commentary, the same articles from 2015 have aged poorly today just because the world has moved past them.
I’m sure that all of the above are totally true. But, there’s another aspect of Buzzfeed that people don’t talk about. Like Facebook and other socials, Buzzfeed tried to build a profile of its readers and serve them the most relevant articles. The problem is, their profiling just didn’t work. I stopped reading the site because it kept feeding me content which was clearly designed for British homosexual teens who identify as female. Let me be super clear I have nothing against that group at all. Nothing, not a bit. But it’s ok for me to say that I don’t always share the same tastes they do. This led to the site being really boring for me.
Will Buzzfeed come back?
I think they could. I look at digg.com, which in many ways was a precursor to Reddit, and they’ve reinvented themselves as a provider of curated content. They’re not a must-read, but certainly they’re holding their own. They may never rise to the same level of prominence they once had, but they are definitely making a go of it. Heck, even Myspace is still out there doing … something.
I doubt that Buzzfeed will ever rise to the same viewership they once had, but I don’t think they’re going to fail. I’m guessing that in a year or so, the venom that Millennials and GenZ’s have for the site will have faded, and they can get on with creating the next generation of their content. I, for one, look forward to it. I’m rooting for them.