NewsTrack 7: Final Thoughts on Buzzfeed News

After tracking Buzzfeed News for the course of the semester, I think I have gained a greater understanding for the site’s mission, style and audience. In true Buzzfeed style, I have created a listicle of my observations and greatest takeaways from the course of the semester.

1. Buzzfeed knows how to write for its audience

As a news outlet targeted at millennials, Buzzfeed caters to its audience exceptionally well. The stories that appear on the site’s homepage and social media are of interest to this audience, and often have a direct effect on them.  The length of stories is also the perfect length to keep the reader engaged, and the language is informal enough to make sure the audience doesn’t glaze over any information due to complex word choice.

2. Buzzfeed takes complicated issues and makes them understandable

Similarly, Buzzfeed does a great job taking important and/or complex issues and breaking them down. To do so, often Buzzfeed will publish a listicle about a major event to break it down or will make a post that read something along the lines of “Everything You Need To Know About…” with complicated concepts or events broken down into sub-sections of the article.

3. Buzzfeed can take a story and cover it from multiple angles to appeal to all different kinds of readers and learners

I noticed this when I observed Buzzfeed’s coverage of the Super Bowl. Not only did the site have a recap of the game, it also had a listicle of highlights, pieces strictly about Lady Gaga’s half time performance and a listicle of the most important photos from the night. This is just one example of all the ways Buzzfeed covers the same stories multiple ways.

4. Buzzfeed knows how to connect with its audience on social media

Buzzfeed utilizes all the social media millennials use when promoting a story. Buzzfeed News has a Twitter, Instagram and Facebook page. And this is in addition to the general Buzzfeed Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat account and Snapchat Discover Story, which also promotes Buzzfeed News stories. Therefore, through all these accounts a millennial is bound to encounter a Buzzfeed News story while scrolling through various social media accounts.

5. Buzzfeed gets a bad rep, but has an incredible staff of reporters

Buzzfeed knows a large portion of its audiences frequents the site to take quizzes and read listicles about the struggles of being a millennial. But in December, Buzzfeed News hired Anthony Cormier to its Investigative Unit and Nancy Youssef to its World team — a Pulitzer winner and a top Pentagon correspondent, respectively. They are not the only notable reporters, all Buzzfeed News’ reporters are well-established and some of the top journalists in the field, creating engaging, well-reported and accurate content.

6. Buzzfeed does a great job with breaking news alerts 

Buzzfeed is always at the forefront of breaking news. Through its use of the Buzzfeed News app, the news outlet is able to send readers brief and informative news updates as they happen. Buzzfeed News also has an active Twitter presnse, and tweets out news in a timely manner. From my observations, however, they never retract tweets and always wait to release breaking until it is confirmed.

NewsTrack 6: Breaking News from BuzzFeed

It was actually kind of difficult to find concrete examples of BuzzFeed News’ breaking news stories, which I found shocking since BuzzFeed News is a leader in news, especially for younger audiences. As I write this, breaking news occurred so I will highlight BuzzFeed’s current handling of Senate Democrats filibusteringSupreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

First, I would like to point out that BuzzFeed News tends to stray away from label their stories as “breaking.” On Twitter, however, they will lead their tweet with “BREAKING.”

Interestingly, on Facebook and on the BuzzFeed News website stories are not labeled “breaking.” Instead, they are just shared. But regarding Facebook, BuzzFeed News likes to utilize the Facebook Live feature. In this particular instance the the outlet knew something monumental would most likely happen, which isn’t necessarily breaking, but the outlet is still covering it like a breaking news story. It is streaming live from the U.S. Capitol via C-Span on Facebook, and updating viewers by commenting on its own video with important comments.

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Further, and perhaps most importantly, there is a BuzzFeed News app for accessible news reading real-time push notifications for breaking news; I think an app with push notifications is a great way to ensure readers and users and receiving news since everyone checks the notification on their phones. Unfortunately as this story unfolded, I missed the push notification that comes up on the lock screen. But, if a user opens the app there is a “quickly catch up” section that featured the breaking news story, as well as an “alerts” tab that has an “alert stream” that shows all the notifications the app pushed out. (Pictured below)

Overall, I am very happy with the BuzzFeed News app, but disappointed in the handling of breaking news among other platforms.

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BuzzFeed News Tackles Alternative Storytelling

BuzzFeed is always on top of popular trends when it comes to storytelling. It explores new ways to tell its stories through various mediums. BuzzFeed News has experimented with many forms of alternative storytelling and has crafted its storytelling in a way that works to its advantage to reach its large, mostly millennial demographic.

BuzzFeed News often utilizes listicles to tell its stories — “BuzzFeed” and “listicles” often go hand-in-hand — but BuzzFeed News has done so much more. The form of alternative storytelling that I appreciate the most is the use of Instagram stories to tell the news and promote BuzzFeed’s content.

On Instagram, everyday BuzzFeed News takes at least one story and tells it through the lens of an Instagram story. For example:

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And then the story goes on to tell the top five items — phone, ring, keys, wallet and glasses — and continues:

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On the third example, Instagram users were given the option to swipe up at the bottom of the page to read more…

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That then linked the user to a full BuzzFeed News story in a new window. (Which is a typical, on-brand BuzzFeed listicle.)

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NewsTrack 4: BuzzFeed News vs. Fake News

Fake news is a term that is thrown around almost daily. President Donald Trump has tweeted out the words “fake news” and/or “fake media” five times in the past six days. In particular, BuzzFeed News has four full pages for stories that contain the tag “fake news” just from the past 10 months. So what does BuzzFeed have to say about it?

BuzzFeed News has covered the effect of fake news on the election and on the American people, as well as how Trump categorizes fake news and attacks the media. With straightforward and unbiased news stories, BuzzFeed News comments on the landscape of fake news. For example, following Trump’s Press Conference February 16, BuzzFeed News posted an article “Trump Attacked The Media For Running “Fake News” During A Combative Press Conference.” Although some strong word choices appear in the headline and throughout the story, they are not false words. Trump did attack the media, Trump did “force” the point that the media publishes fake news and he did day things that were “unbelievably grandiose,” no matter where you fall on the political specturm.

My favorite piece regarding what BuzzFeed News has to say about fake news is a data-driven piece from November, “This Analysis Shows How Viral Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook.”

The article outlines that BuzzFeed analysists found that people interacted with the top fake news stories during the election on Facebook more often than the top news stories from 19 major media outlets combined.

“During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.”

 

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Via BuzzFeed News

When I found this article, I was thrilled. BuzzFeed News is often given a hard time about being a serious news source. However, BuzzFeed hires top-notch journalists and Pulitzer Prize winners; It is a site to be taken very seriously. I loved that BuzzFeed exposed fake news and its readers. The piece also served as a call to action for Facebook to step up and combat fake news. Journalism exists to inform and evoke change. This piece accomplished both.

 

Further, BuzzFeed also does a good job making the idea of fake news relatable and poking fun at it. It recently published a quiz “If You Get 3/7 On This Quiz You’re Getting Sucker Punched By Fake News,” which is both comical and sad. BuzzFeed knows its audience likes a good laugh, and that they tend to turn to the site for lighter, easy-to-read news. So, by playing to that strength, the site was able to shine a light on the craziness of the world and make sure people are in tuned into what’s going on around them. Very creative and informative! (Fun fact: all the stories were true.)

It is important to note, however, that BuzzFeed recently came under fire for publishing a Trump intelligence report that alleged that Trump has “deep ties” to Russia.

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By publishing the reports, many ethical questions came to surface about the news site and accused the site of pushing out fake news.

NewsTrack 3: BuzzFeed News’ Use of Photos

As one of the leading news sources for a majority of millennials, BuzzFeed utilizes pictures and knows exactly how to draw in and entertain its audience with them.

In my last NewsTrack post, I commented on BuzzFeed’s use of pictures during the Super Bowl LI coverage, but that was nothing new for the site; BuzzFeed strategically uses pictures as part of its daily function across multiple platforms.

On it’s website BuzzFeed News does bog down its look with pictures. But in stories, it incorporates numerous photos in between graphs of text. I think this is a well-thought tactic. When there are pictures that are eye-catching and revenant to the story, and it makes the stories seem shorter by breaking up text if it is a long piece. And for millennials, the length of a story can be intimidating and determine if they will read the entire piece.

Sometimes, BuzzFeed News even takes the approach of telling a story strictly through pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

BuzzFeed is also very active on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I noticed on Twitter that @BuzzFeedNews promotes its stories with a shortlink and uploaded pictures, rather than using the preview image/text of the story. By uploading a picture, the picture is larger and will grab a reader’s attention over the preview the shortlink provides. Here’s an example:

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BuzzFeed News’ Instagram account lacks about 400, 000 followers than its Twitter account, and does not post from the account as often as it does on Twitter. It usually posts a picture that contains a story headline and a picture with a caption that explain the image. I don’t think it is pleasing to look at, but it is a great way to connect with a larger audience.IMG_4529.jpg

And finally, Snapchat. BuzzFeed is known for its presence on the Snapchat Discover page. (It is not BuzzFeed News, just general BuzzFeed.) Being a platform based on pictures, BuzzFeed often posts playful stories and listicles to scroll through. Although not always hard-hitting news, it is entertaining and a fantastic way to publicize its brand and reach a wider audience because everyone is guilty of aimlessly scrolling through the Snapchat discover page.

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NewsTrack 2: BuzzFeed News Covers Super Bowl LI

While covering Super Bowl LI, I noticed that BuzzFeed News reported during and after the game very visually, with many pictures to draw readers’ attention. It focused on more “click worthy content” such as “Here Are The 19 Most Incredible Photos Of Super Bowl LI,” which was simply just a list of 19 pictures. I think this was a smart tactic for BuzzFeed because people love to be able to scroll mindlessly, so being able to recap the game strictly in pictures is a great advantage to this post.

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BuzzFeed News also published “Lady Gaga Made Us Proud To Be American At The Super Bowl Halftime Show.” The post consisted of large pictures with a bolded sentence introducing each one. Then, the end of the post included her full halftime performance. Again, I think this was a great strategy by BuzzFeed. In this situation, most people do not want to read an in-depth analysis on Lady Gaga’s performance, especially by BuzzFeed, so it played to its strengths and published an on-brand post that catered to it’s primary audience and gave them exactly what they wanted: Am easy and short recap, the full performance and visuals.

Additionally, BuzzFeed News was very active on social media during the Super Bowl. Not only did its Twitter account give live updates throughout the game, but it also posted pictures and gifs. The pictures and gifs definitely gave the site a greater presence on Twitter during the game because the posts were eye-catching.

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NewsTrack 1: BuzzFeed News’ Mission

What’s the buzz? 

Since it’s formation in 2006, BuzzFeed has been able to answer that simple question in various, engaging ways to its readers. From hard news to viral listicles, BuzzFeed’s content is reader-friendly and is shared around numerous platforms. With a simple scroll through Facebook or Twitter, an individual would come in contact with a piece of BuzzFeed content shared by someone in his/her network.

One division of the site, BuzzFeed News, aims to “serve a next generation, highly engaged audience that consumes video and content across platforms, on mobile, and has an expectation that media will be relevant and connected to their lives, easily shareable, and globally accessible,” according to BuzzFeed’s About page stating its mission.

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After a glance at BuzzFeed News’ home pages on both a laptop computer and mobile device (both on the BuzzFeed application and on the Safari browser), its mission statement is quickly exemplified in the presentation of all three viewing options. Not only does it BuzzFeed News live up to its mission of allowing its audience to consume content on various platforms, it also publishes news that people want to read and news that directly affects its audience.

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Through this NewsTrack assignment, I will take BuzzFeed’s mission statement into account to ensure the site remains true to its intentions while also providing my own commentary on the site, its content and its engagement, as well as gaining a greater understanding of the online news landscape from one of the leaders in the field.