The quote in this title isn’t from a critique of Buzzfeed written by a contemporary critical theorist loftily bemoaning everything this site is coming to represent. It’s from a paper written by the founder of Buzzfeed when he was a critical theorist loftily bemoaning the cultural logic of late capitalism:
Buzzfeed has achieved an outrageous amount of success in recent years, reaching 130 million unique visitors last November (over four times as many as in November 2012). There are a lot of reasons for that but a major one is the site’s remarkable talent at relating to people. Many of the site’s pieces work by letting readers revel in shared traits or experiences: “35 Signs You Went To A Liberal Arts College In The Early ’90s”; “19 Reasons We Are All Actually Every Single Disney Character”; “26 Struggles Only People With Small Bladders Will Understand.” “Nobody wants to be a shill for your brand,” former Buzzfeed chief creative officer Jeff Greenspan once told New York Magazine for a profile of the company’s founder, Jonah Peretti. “But they are happy to share information and content that helps them promote their own identity.”
So where did Peretti get that idea? Peretti’s academic writings offer one clue. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1996, Peretti published an article in the cultural theory journal Negationsentitled “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” After the paper was mentioned in New York’s Peretti profile, Critical-Theory.com’s Eugene Wolters read through it, and found that it more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed’s entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded.