Looking through lists of cute cat pictures, or 49 Things That Taste Like Christmas, and tags that include “LOL” or “trashy” or “wtf”, it would be easy to dismiss BuzzFeed as beneath the attention of serious editors and journalists.
But listening to the site’s editorial director, Scott Lamb, speaking in Paris at Sciences Po university’s New Practices in Journalism conference last week, it became evident that there is more to the site than first meets the eye, and that it can offer lessons that could be useful for publishers of all journalistic products.
Lamb was clear that BuzzFeed doesn’t aim to simply provide mindless entertainment. “We think of ourselves as a news organisation,” he said. “We are not going to be able to compete with The Wall Street Journal, but we can cover things that other people don’t.” It is this sentiment that led to the hiring of Ben Smith, a well-regarded political journalist who had been at Politico, as editor-in-chief in December 2011.