Maddox, the man behind "The Best Page in the Universe," hates BuzzFeed. We know this because of his new post, "I Hate BuzzFeed," and its accompanying video, titled, "I Hate BuzzFeed." It's an unrelenting attack — but he gets one point wrong.
It seems as though Maddox doesn't specifically hate BuzzFeed so much as the site's signature listicle format. He runs through a litany of critiques of those lists, some of which we've pointed out previously: The subtle or non-existent sourcing for images. Taking story ideas and whole text from other places. Offering conflicting or hyper-specific points of view on banal places or objects. Pictures accompanied by fairly uncomplicated captions.
It doesn't have to be that way, Maddox notes. "BuzzFeed has received over $46 million in funding," he writes. "They can afford to fact-check their articles. They can afford to pay people to take their time and check sources. They can afford to pay content-creators—actual content creators—for the images, photographs and writing they've stolen to become millionaires." Most of those making the lists aren't millionaires, of course, but his point is well taken.
Here's where we'd disagree with Maddox. As highlighted at HyperVocal, he pays particular attention to those "banal points of view" lists, like "24 Signs You Grew Up In A Small Town." From the video:
These articles are designed to mine clicks from a specific demographic so BuzzFeed can use these metrics to sell sponsored content to regional advertisers. Nobody at BuzzFeed gives a shit about you, Michigan State University, or the problems Hawaiians are suffering from. You’re a pawn. They’re using you for clicks to sell you to the highest bidder.
Not really! As New York magazine documented earlier this year, the site generally partners with major brands for its sponsored content. When we looked at the breakdown between staff, community, and sponsored posts in April, about 5 percent of the traffic from the top 200 users came from sponsored posts. Mass Effect 3, E!, Intel. Big brands, not regional ones. (BuzzFeed has since moved its top user data.) The goal of what we call the "Signs You" posts — "34 Signs You Went to San Jose State University," or whatever — probably isn't to get advertisers in San Jose to sponsor content. And it's certainly not to get them to buy ads; BuzzFeed doesn't run ads.
Instead, those posts are eternal traffic engines, providing one-stop lists for colleges that will last for years, reliably being passed around by kids that went to that school or who live in whatever town. The goal is traffic — BuzzFeed's sales pitch to advertisers. "We are the media company for the social age," its ad sales page reads. "BuzzFeed enables SuperSharing!" All those San Jose State grads, passing around that listicle: SuperShared.
Other than that, Maddox raises a lot of good points.