Buzzfeed Is Teaching Me to Cook

Cheese-Stuffed Pizza Pretzels

Posted by Tasty on Thursday, 14 January 2016

Admit it: you’re now ready to try this yourself.   Buzzfeed – long the master of virality – is conquering the foodies with its short wordless recipe vids.   Within 24 hours of posting, 37 million people had learned how to make cheese-stuffed pizza pretzels and 650,000 people had liked the recipe, according to Fortune.  Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel has now knocked Justin Bieber from the top spot of video creators,  having received a billion views in December.
What’s the secret?   One is that it’s content created specifically  – or optimised –  for Facebook, which make use of its Autoplay feature.  They’re so quick that you may as well finish watching them if you start.  According to Fortune, this strategy can be expensive, and risky,

On top of the costs, there’s a high risk for publishers that rely on a platform like Facebook or Snapchat to distribute their content. Famous YouTube stars have long complained that they don’t “own” their subscribers. In other words, if they left YouTube they’d have to build up their following again from scratch. The same is true of Facebook, which constantly tweaks its algorithm to favor or suppress certain kinds of content. Algorithm tweaks have tanked entire media businesses (ahem, Upworthy). Of late, Facebook’s algorithm has favored video posts above photos and text-only posts.

To many, outsourcing digital distribution is a repeat of what happened in the web’s earliest days. Everyone wanted their publications to live inside a web portal like AOL, and it seemed mutually beneficial: AOL had the audience but no content to give them, and media organizations (including Time Inc.’s former parent company, Time Warner), had the content but no audience. But those relationships soured and media companies decided it was better to control and operate their own websites.

“Every content provider, every production company, every publisher would like to have control over the pipe,” Cooper says. But since social media platforms are today’s “pipes,” BuzzFeed is working within that construct. The company has mitigated risk by using multiple platforms, giving the company “the distinct advantage of not becoming over-reliant on one platform,” Cooper says.

Buzzfeed has taken this one step further, by burrowing down and creating Proper Tasty, a channel specifically for British comfort food lovers, which turns out to be their fastest facebook page.   This is the Long Tail of the internet, allowing publishers to target niche populations.  And as a Brit, I have to admit that I may just end up trying bangers and mash sausage rolls.

Bangers And Mash Sausage Rolls

Posted by Proper Tasty on Sunday, 17 January 2016

READING:  1) Should Reddit be blamed for spreading a smear? (NYT)                                                                                       2) Ten Ways That Journalists Can Use Twitter Before, during and After a Story (Poynter)                                                     3) Digital Media Ethics (Uni of Wisconsin)


Live tweet a news event.  Ideally it would be something local that you are actually present at, though it could be a press conference or some other such event that you are watching live online.   It should be something that relates to your beat.   Paste each tweet into your wordpress site, so that others are able to view your live-tweeting experience.   Please do not paste teeny-weeny screenshots. (for Jan 24 8pm)    The rubric is here.   USE THE CLASS HASHTAG! #c439

Five Things You Could Live-Tweet

Peachy Keen

Big news:  there’s a new social network that’s blowing up, but everyone is kind of clueless about what it is and does.

Buzzfeed’s explainer is itself somewhat baffled.

Where did this app come from?
I have no freakin’ clue, bro. This thing came out of nowhere and now everyone has it.

In fact Peach was started by Vine Founder Dom Hofman, and one of its capabilities, according to Tech Radar is a host of magic words.

Typing “shout” lets you write in big blown up letters on a colored background with an emoji. “Draw” does what you think it would, “song” lets you share what you’re listening to with others, who can tap on it to listen themselves, and “rate” will let you rate literally anything between one and five stars.  GIF, here, goodmorning, goodnight, battery, dice, safari are also Magic Words, and Peach promises more are on the way.

However, the Next Web warns Peach is already being taken over by people using fake celebrity names.  So is it the next big thing?  It’s big among Tech Twitter – tech journalists, investors and entrepreneurs – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will catch on.  “What does Tech Twitter’s early interest tell us about Peach’s future success?” asks Re/Code. “Not much”, it concludes.

READING:  How Americans Get Their News.  (American Press Institute)

ASSIGNMENT:  Write a blogpost of around 400 words introducing yourself, your media consumption habits and the beat that you will blog upon in the next semester.   How do you get your news?  Have your news consumption habits changed since arriving at university?   In describing your news consumption habits, please tie them into the some of the trends described in Post-Industrial Journalism.   How do your news consumption habits differ from those of your parents?   Explain what beat you will be focusing on in your blog over the next semester and why. (Jan 12 8pm)

Holograms and virtual reality… the future is now

It’s been a good week for holograms, what with the Edward Snowden holographic statue tribute, followed by the world’s first holographic protest in Spain.   This is probably the first augmented reality protest, in this case against a new set of National Security bills, which would criminalize gatherings in front of parliament.  There’s a new site, Holograms for Freedom.

Also, what is being touted as the world’s first virtual reality advert, for 7 for All Mankind jeans, has been released.  The downside is that almost noone can see it since Virtual Reality goggles are needed or special cardboard goggles, oh and then a special App, which is only on Android right now.   It’s got them some press notice as advertising pioneers, but few are commenting on the content.

Google has come up with this multimedia interactive of Abbey Road, though Quartz found it frustrating.

For your final reading, this was the week that Politico moved forward with its worldwide expansionNetflix overtook CBS and Buzzfeed got accused of having a censorship problem.

#applewatch fail?

The first Applewatch reviews are out, and they’re worth reading.  In this video, Farhad Manjoo from the New York Times says the watch is “merging digital technology with our  body in a way we haven’t really seen before”.  His conclusion: “The first Apple Watch may not be for you – but someday soon, it will change your world.” 

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But Business Insider has this useful round-up of reviews, which it characterises as ‘quietly brutal’.   One of the most damning verdicts was from Bloomberg Business’s Joshua Topolsky, who rated the watch as a timepiece in the following way, “I’ve found the experience somewhat inferior to that with a conventional wristwatch, due to one small issue. The Apple Watch activates its screen only when it thinks you’re looking at it.”  Wait, what?

In other news on the perils of using new technology, Madonna was supposed to premiere her new video on Meerkat.   It failed, showing just a 500 error page.  Her fans were not happy.  It’s supposed to happen again today, but maybe don’t hold your breath. 

On the intersection between gaming and journalism, the BBC has created a Syrian Journey: Choose your own escape route game highlighting the dangers faced by Syrian refugees.   It cost just under 30,000 USD to create inhouse, but has been attacked as transforming human suffering into a ‘children’s game’.




Again, on the intersection between entertainment and journalism, here’s Alli Cope’s post on the Six Strangest Ways that Buzzfeed has Covered Iraq and ISIS. 

Assignment: 400 word blogpost on debate motion “Facebook is a Force for Good”.  Pick a side, either for or against the motion, and argue your corner.

The debate format will be as follows:

We will hold a vote on the motion before the debate begins.  The first speaker (the proposer) will speak for 5 mins in favour of the motion, followed by the opposer speaking against the motion.  Then the second speaker in each team (proposer’s seconder, opposer’s seconder) will speak for 5 minutes each.   Then we will open the floor to questions from the floor, and each member of the class will ask a question.  In that period, the debaters can answer questions directed to them, as well as rebutting the views of the other camp.

At the very end, the third member of each team will have a 5 minute period during which they will sum up why the audience should propose or oppose the motion.  In that time, they can sum up the arguments as well as introducing new ideas, if they should wish to do so.   Then we will hold the final vote.

News You Can Wear

Technological innovation is coming to news delivery… .and soon.   It’s only five weeks until the Apple Watch launches. And other innovations are changing the way news is delivered.  Like robots.  Here’s one vision of the future:

One day you might even have your own personal robot journalist, filing daily stories just for you on your fitness tracking data and your personal finances.

“We sort of flip the traditional content creation model on its head,” [Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen] says. “Instead of one story with a million page view, we’ll have a million stories with one page view each.”

According to one man, Andrew Keen, The Internet Is Not The Answer.  That’s the name of his new book, and he gave a thought-provoking interview on NPR on Monday.  He sees the internet not so much as a disruptor than as a destroyer:

The more we use the contemporary digital network, the less economic value it is bringing to us. Rather than promoting economic fairness, it is a central reason for the growing gulf between rich and poor and the hollowing out of the middle class. Rather than making us wealthier, the distributed capitalism of the new networked economy is making most of us poorer. Rather than generating more jobs, this digital disruption is a principal cause of our structural unemployment crisis. Rather than creating more competition, it has created immensely powerful new monopolists like Google and Amazon.

Its cultural ramifications are equally chilling. Rather than creating transparency and openness, the Internet is creating a panopticon of information-gathering and surveillance services in which we, the users of big data networks like Facebook, have been packaged as their all-too-transparent product. Rather than creating more democracy, it is empowering the rule of the mob. Rather than encouraging tolerance, it has unleashed such a distasteful war on women that many no longer feel welcome on the network. Rather than fostering a renaissance, it has created a selfie-centered culture of voyeurism and narcissism. Rather than establishing more diversity, it is massively enriching a tiny group of young white men in black limousines. Rather than making us happy, it’s compounding our rage.

No, the Internet is not the answer. Not yet, anyway.

Also in the news this week, Obama on Vice this time.   And the White House is having an Instameet.

Reading for Thursday:

1)  The Next Stage in the Battle for Attention is Our Wrists (Nieman)

2) The Future of News on Apple Watch is in Yahoo’s Hands (Buzzfeed)

3) How Vice’s Tim Pool used Google Glass to Cover the Riots in Turkey (The Guardian)

4) Why Google Glass Broke (NYT)

ASSIGNMENT 1): Write a blogpost on the innovative use of one type of technology that is transforming your beat.   It could be a new device for recording or broadcast (gopro, drones, optimus prime), or it could be a new type of wearable technology (smartclothes, fitbit etc). (for Mar 19)

2) Photo story for March 19th.

We are all Buzzfeed Now

download (37)


That was Brian Morrisey at Digiday’s conclusion after the twin banal obsessions gripped the internet for a good twenty-four hours.   Everybody was aggregating and reaggregating.   It was – as Neetzan Zimmerman put it – the Viral Singularity.

BuzzFeed’s post was a litmus test for publishers. You didn’t need Chartbeat to know that there was good viral traffic to be had, even if it meant simply ripping off BuzzFeed. But would such a re-aggregated aggregation really fit with a storied brand like, say, Time? Who cares. Time did a copy and paste job. So too did Cosmo. Gawker, a digital publishing brand that’s suddenly feeling very old, cast aside its identity crisis debate over viral popcorn to post a quick rewrite, bank the pageview and not dwell on it. Slate live-blogged the Internet kerfuffle like it was a presidential debate.

But others had a different take: crowdsourcing the news creates a more democratic newsgathering environment, argued the CJR.  While Slate too saw the llama/dress virality as a sign of journalistic strength, not infirmity. 

For decades, back when print and broadcast media monopolized news coverage, “newsworthiness” was determined in top-down processes, by editors and reporters who were only minimally accountable to the communities they served. Readers could write letters to editors, and could offer story tips, but that was the extent of their involvement in the news process. Journalists produced the news, readers consumed it, and if the reader didn’t like the news being produced, well, tough luck, because the reader needed the paper more than the paper needed any individual reader.

The disaggregation of news in the Internet age has inverted this relationship, and made news outlets hypersensitive to the interests of their readers. This is a positive development. It’s good that the media covers stories that its constituents are interested in and want to read about. It’s good when news outlets are connected to the communities they serve.

Blogs of the week are Austin Davis on network news, and Maddie Kimble on satirical news shows.

For your mid-term presentations (20 mins per group please), here are some tips for the non-Buzzfeed groups.

Vox got a big interview lately.  Gawker’s founder is going it alone.  The Skimm’s founders have been sharing their secrets.  Vice is going girly… and Mashable is going to India.

March 10th: The Skimm, Buzzfeed, Vox

March 12th: Huffpo, Mashable, Gawker

Assignment 2:  Tell a story relating to your beat through photo gallery, a series of at least five photos which tell a story.   Make sure there’s a person in at least one of your pictures. There needs to be plot development, rather than a number of photos of the same thing from different angles. (for March 17)


Behold the Emoji-Interview


Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is the first politician ever to have conducted a political interview entirely in emojis.   Predictably, it was with Buzzfeed.   The limitations of the media are – ahem – quite clear, lending themselves to the squishy questions rather than anything with any geopolitical depth.

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But I enjoyed this satirical response from the Vine, who had their own version of an emoji-interview with Prime Minister Tony Abbott (not).



Meanwhile, blogpost of the week goes to Devin Schott for finding this fantastic visualization of CO2 emissions.  You’d need a supercomputer, however, to replicate it.  Also, a shout-out to Mallory Anderson for posting her thoughts on the role of social media in the Brian Williams scandal.

In other news, Sony has begun selling its rival to the now defunct Google Glass.  Behold the Smart Eyeglass, criticised by one user as a “chastity belt for your face”.  Anyone know how to say glasshole in Sony?


Next class is in the Shapiro Library room 4041.

Reading: Clay Christiansen Mastering the Art of Disruptive Innovation in Journalism (Nieman)

ASSIGNMENT: Watch a network TV newscast on ABC, NBC or CBS. In a blogpost analyse the choice of stories, the type of treatment given to them and your assessment of the role of network TV news in the digital era. (For Thursday Feb 26th)

New York Times Failure…. In One Chart


From gigaom

From gigaom

Interesting chart from Gigaom showing that the average Buzzfeed piece is shared almost 8000 times, compared to the New York Times, which garners ten times fewer shares.    The piece points out that it’s more instructive to look at the median; the figure for the NYT is just 11 shares.   Check out the second chart too, showing that 14% of Buzzfeed articles go viral (ie more than 10,000 shares.)


Shout-out for Blog of the Week to Maddie Kimble.

READING for Jan 22

The Revenue Picture for American Journalism and How it’s Changing (Pew)

The End of the Printed Newspaper (Clay Shirky)

False Idol (CJR)

ASSIGNMENT: Live-tweet an event, whether it be a speech, a sports match, a TV show or a demonstration.   Make sure you tweet at least 10 times. Then post the series of tweets to your wordpress site.  USE the #c439 hashtag!

Separately post the most retweeted or favourited tweet (for Jan 27 8am)