The end of the BuzzFeed era in news
Ben Smith, writing at Semafor:
My old boss and partner Jonah Peretti announced today that he’s shutting down BuzzFeed News, which we built together starting in 2012.
He wrote to staff that he’d been ”slow to accept that the big platforms wouldn’t provide the distribution or financial support required to support premium-free journalism purpose-built for social media.” And he wrote that he could have managed the many business challenges that BuzzFeed has faced better.
The news makes me heartsick.
Peretti hired me in 2012 to build a news organization for the exploding social web. For a few years, we felt the wind of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at our backs, and we did journalism that treated those sites as the front page of the new internet. At first, we celebrated and immersed ourselves in an optimistic web culture that imagined a reader who cared about which Disney princess she was, and also the worst of how the American justice system treated abused women, who wanted to argue about the color of the dress and also understand the science behind it. That was back when all of it mixed up in your Facebook feed, and it felt novel.
As we adjust to a new media era, where we have focused on building an audience around newsletters and events, what’s left of the web has endured in those surprising, early places.
Those of us lucky enough to be building from scratch in this new moment have to realize that the old way of thinking about news — based in text on the world wide web and distributed primarily on social media — has passed. But the demand to understand what’s happening in the world hasn’t gone away, and the new challenge is to build direct connections with an audience that’s still overwhelmed by the decaying social web, and eager to find great journalism they can trust.
Social platforms flight from news has not cut as deeply into the entertainment side of BuzzFeed. Peretti, ever the optimist, wrote that he’s still “confident the future of digital media is ours for the taking. Our industry is hurting and ready to be reborn.”
The group of brands under BuzzFeed, which also includes HuffPost and Complex, “will bring more innovation to clients in the form of creators, AI, and cultural moments,” he wrote.