I say Buzzfeed, you say…
Amazing photo montages of baby animals?
Lists providing tips for incorporating sriracha sauce into every meal?
How about up-to-the-minute source for hard news?
Buzzfeed originally built its reputation as the go-to site for all things outrageous and adorable. The site’s popularity is undisputed. In 2013, the company reported that the site had received more than 130 million unique visitors during the month of November. Subject matter runs the gamut – as I’m writing this, Helen Mirren, feminist tattoos and drivers’ licenses from New Zealand are all prominently featured on the site’s homepage – and content is updated frequently throughout the day.
But it seems as if Buzzfeed is looking to grow up a bit, so to speak. Last week, Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith announced that the company is in the beginning stages of building a second app that will focus entirely on serious news. This announcement is the latest in a series of gradual moves by Buzzfeed to incorporate more thoughtful journalism into the site’s offerings while staying true to its lighter roots. Over the past year, Buzzfeed has begun to feature more substantive news stories in addition to long-form human interest pieces.
Buzzfeed will likely face a few hurdles in getting its devotees and new visitors to broaden their perception of what type of content the outlet has to offer. What Buzzfeed does have going for it is a built-in audience of millions, the majority of whom already view its content on their mobile devices. In fact, 78 percent of smartphone owners reported having used their phones to access news at least once in the past week, according to a survey by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Buzzfeed’s investment in developing this app is illustrative of the ever-changing landscape of media consumption today – when we’ve seen the quick rise in prominence of and visits to media outlets such as Slate, Salon and Ezra Klein’s Vox.com. While more traditional news outlets still have loyal subscribers and in many cases remain a highly trusted source of hard news, the Media Insight Project also found the majority of Americans across generations now rely on a mix of sources and technologies to get their news each week. Additionally, findings indicated that where people go for news actually depends on what topic they’re looking to learn more about – be it sports, weather, domestic politics or global affairs. And Americans remain avid consumers of news in the digital age. A study that we conducted in partnership with GMI Lightspeed this year found that 60 percent of Americans watch or read 3 to 10 news stories every day. These findings suggest that there is certainly still room for Buzzfeed to carve out a space for itself within the realm of more serious reporting.
There isn’t yet a predicted release date for Buzzfeed’s new app. But while you’re waiting – take a look at this little boy and his French bulldog friend.