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  • Mark 7:32 am on September 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: buzzfeed, , , , ,   

    The first and second wave of viral publishers 

    From Jill Abramson’s Merchants of Truth pg 281

    While the new-media pioneers at BuzzFeed and Upworthy produced LOLs and cultivated trumped-up umbrage over the killing of poor Cecil, a second guard of new-media publishers set out to capture the loyalty of another psychographic swath of America whose disaffection far surpassed mere boredom. The new wave would employ the methods BuzzFeed had pioneered, but used partisan anger as their way of hot-wiring readers’ emotional responses.

    From pg 283:

    Breitbart, meanwhile, fixated on a more violent and direct overthrow of the mainstream media, a coup d’état more than a reformation. His aspirations were colored by the chip on his shoulder, and his approach was adversarial. “The idea,” 39 he told Wired , “is that I have to screw with media, and I have to screw with the Left, in order to give legitimate stories the ability to reach their natural watermark.” It was a lucrative idea. “When the entire media is structured to attack conservatives and Republicans, there is a huge business model to come in and counterbalance that.”

  • Mark 8:50 pm on September 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: buzzfeed, , Jonah Peretti   

    The scholarly career of BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti 


  • Mark 7:27 pm on September 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: buzzfeed, , , viral,   

    The gamification of virality and the pleasures it brings 

    A few creepy extracts from Jill Abramson’s Merchants of Truth about the office culture at BuzzFeed. The pursuit of virality has been gamified, with these ostentatiously fun undertakings matched by an underlying threat that those who can’t reach these standards won’t survive at the company in the longer term. In light of this we should be sceptical of attempts to make it fun but that shouldn’t entail a rejection that fun is possible.

    What are the pleasures found in virality? The energies involved in making something ‘a thing’ as BuzzFeed staff are reportedly prone to saying (pg 144)? What are their managers channeling in these exercises? How does it feed what Richard Seymour calls the Twittering Machine?

    From pg 38:

    Every so often, Peretti would announce an office-wide “sprint,” for which the staff would divide into two teams and race to publish as many posts as possible on a single topic—funny babies, say, or conspiracy theories. Each time a new post went up, the author banged a gong. It was one of the many madcap methods Peretti came up with to spur his staff to be maximally productive. On Fridays he would organize “game battles,” another competitive post-writing contrivance, all the wilder for the fact that it involved a steady intake of alcohol throughout the day.

    From pg 116:

    Management insisted on quantifying the popularity of its employees’ work using Nguyen’s dashboard. Every afternoon they sent out a company-wide “scorecard” and awarded virtual badges to the day’s winners. A running tally ranked the top-performing post-writers in terms of the eyeballs they won. Notching 10 posts with at least a million views each qualified you for induction into the Players’ Club, a distinction commemorated by a dinky plastic trophy and a handwritten letter of congratulations from Beastmaster Shepherd, in crayon. A few ascended to the Silver and Gold Players Clubs. Upon authoring his 100th million-view post, Matt Stopera was admitted to the Crystal Players Club. The only one on a higher rung was his younger brother, Dave, sole member of the Platinum Players Club.

    Pg 116-117:

    The quest for ever-bigger blockbusters kept BuzzFeeders glued to their computer screens. Someone would publish a post that went mega-vi and receive invitations to appear on a television talk show, but the staff joked that it was only worth doing so their parents could watch them on air. The pace of BuzzFeed’s growth meant employees faced consequences if they weren’t meeting traffic goals. One former staff writer, Arabelle Sicardi, whose essays on womanhood and self-image packed more substance than most content on the site, was reassigned when her numbers lulled. “They had me stop writing essays and only concentrate on viral,” she said. Posts like “This Piglet Dressed as a Unicorn Is Making Everyone Cry Rainbows” and “13 Emotions Everyone Experiences in Sephora” then took the place of her expositions on feminism. “That’s when I decided to leave.”

    There was a comparable system in place with Facebook’s (now ended) human verification of trending stories. From pg 291 of the same book:

    Of the roughly 200 stories editors vetted each day, the number they greenlighted was usually around 15 to 20, maybe 30 if they spent their entire shift in hyperdrive. The goal handed down from upstairs, editors said, was for them all to reach a daily rate of 50 verified stories. The number they produced each day was prominently visible to everyone who worked in the office and was frequently cause for conversation with the bosses. The editors who verified and produced the lowest number of news stories in a given month got last pick when it came time to sign up for the next month’s shift slots, meaning they got stuck with overnights on their weekends and the 4 p.m. to midnight shift during the week. Top performers were given “points” that could be spent on Facebook paraphernalia like T-shirts.

    • landzek 12:15 pm on September 20, 2019 Permalink

      I hate people. 🤣

    • landzek 12:21 pm on September 20, 2019 Permalink

      I think we need to start a new religion based in an ethics that defines who gets to exist. Like. : thou shalt not be an idiot. And then 5 priests sit in a large room their whole lives, as they are reincarnated from the precious priests. And they stay high on every sort of drug they might want or like, or none, and they decide who is sacrificed because they are idiots. 👽🙏🏾👽

    • landzek 12:24 pm on September 20, 2019 Permalink

      …the new religion would have human beings as low on the universal priority scale. 🌠

    • landzek 12:28 pm on September 20, 2019 Permalink

      It’s gonna be so cool when I die and get to be god of my own universe and hang out with the other gods and play keno all day.

  • Mark 9:33 am on August 15, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , buzzfeed, ,   

    viral media and unionisation 

    I’ve been interested in Upworthy for a long time. It was founded by Eli Pariser, author of the Filter Bubble and key figure in MoveOn.org, in order to leverage the dynamics of viral media to promote ‘meaningful’ and progressive content. But a few years on, with a change in Facebook’s algorithms having brought about a 48% drop in traffic within two months, the company is struggling badly. Hence their stance that, though they support the right of their staff to unionise, they shouldn’t because it would be bad for the company. This was a sentiment echoed by BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti:

    “I think unions have had a positive impact on a lot of places, like if you’re working on an assembly line, and if you’re negotiating with management it can make a huge difference, particularly when labor is more replaceable. And I think I don’t think a union is right for BuzzFeed for two reasons. 

    One, I think the way we pattern BuzzFeed is after companies like Google and Facebook, and the tech startups are very, very competitive for talent. They’re all trying to get the very best talent. That’s how I see BuzzFeed as well. We need to provide amazing benefits, we need to provide as much incentive for people to pick BuzzFeed over any other company.

    A lot of the best new-economy companies are environments where there’s an alliance between managers and employees. People have shared goals. Benefits and perks and compensation are very competitive, and I feel like that’s the kind of market we’re in. A lot of times when you look at companies that have unionized, the relationship is very different. The relationship is much more adversarial, and you have lawyers negotiating for comp and looking at comparable companies and trying to keep compensation matched with other companies.

    I think that actually wouldn’t be very good for employees at BuzzFeed — particularly people who are writers and reporters — because the comps for writers and reporters are much less favorable than comps for startup companies and tech companies. In general, I don’t think it’s the right idea for us. The only thing about BuzzFeed is that we’re global, most unions are national. We have people who move between different roles and in general unions do a lot of defining clearly what individual roles, and what the job function is. So for a flexible, dynamic company, it isn’t something I think would be great for the company.”


    I’m very interested in how a self-congratulatory corporate culture (“we’re disrupting the world, solving wicked problems, making it a better and more exciting place!”) interacts with the accumulation of vast wealth. Or in this case, how the avowedly moral stance of someone like Pariser falls by the wayside when his company falls on difficult times.

  • Mark 4:10 pm on May 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: buzzfeed, , ,   

    Buzzfeed and the “the acceleration of the temporal rhythm of late capitalist visual culture” 

    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.


    • stephenpritchard72 6:24 am on June 4, 2014 Permalink

      Reblogged this on colouring in culture and commented:
      Mark Carrigan: “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…” Hmm…

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