What BuzzFeed Is Trying to Do
Earlier this month, BuzzFeed shocked the media world by hiring Politico’s Ben Smith as its editor in chief. Smith, recruited hard by BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, was a star Politico columnist and figured to have an important role in Politico’s 2012 election coverage.
Many questions arose when Smith decided to move from a well respected newsroom to a site known mostly for its knack for finding cute animal videos and other ‘buzz worthy’ internet stuff. “Why did he do it?” the media asked. Or how could he? “Is this a good fit for you?” asked a baffled Howard Kurtz.
For me, the most interesting question about Smith’s move is what will the new BuzzFeed look like? Today, I think we have a better clue. One of Smith’s new hires, Andrew Kaczynski, began contributing two days ago and already has video up with the potential to make some waves in the race for the Republican nomination.
The video, dug up by Kaczynski features Ron Paul promoting his now controversial newsletters in a 1995 interview. The newsletters contain enough racial vitriol to sink a state assembly campaign and have been repeatedly dismissed by Paul as something so inconsequential that he would not even look at the content before the newsletter was sent out. The video seems to point otherwise, or at least seed doubt into Paul’s claims.
And there it is, news reporting from BuzzFeed that is both potentially viral and politically meaningful. There’s an added element here too- the potential to make news and not just report it. That’s a style that fits perfectly with BuzzFeed but would be a tough sell at Politico, which is focused on reporting harder news stories.
Perhaps this is the space that BuzzFeed pitched Smith on when convincing him there was an opportunity there. If Smith’s team continues to focus in on this type of content, there’s no doubt in my mind they will have more than one major breakthrough in the 2012 political season. This could be fun to watch.