A reader writes:
I think your strong aversion to the sponsored content model is due to two factors: 1) your profession 2) your generation. To someone like me (I’m 27), there isn’t much of a difference between ads and content. In both categories, some are worth consuming and some aren’t. I’m just as likely to go to youtube to seek out a commercial I like as I am to search for a music video. I read that PS4 post without realizing it was an ad but when I found it was (through the Dish) I wasn’t offended and I didn’t feel duped.
Part of the reason is that I don’t see Buzzfeed as a site that operates within the confines of traditional “journalism” and I don’t think they’ve ever tried to position themselves that way. I think Ben Smith’s Buzzfeed Politics sort of exists as a separate piece of Buzzfeed and should have stricter rules for sponsored content, because while the format is slightly different, that part of the site is clearly committed to real, traditional journalism. The main Buzzfeed site is not, and that’s where the PS4 post came out.
Most of the content is those silly scroll down photo-essays, which are a great way to waste 3 minutes. I don’t expect those posts to follow the traditional rules of journalism, because they’re not traditional journalism.
Making money on the web means we’re seeing new models evolve. The Dish is one model, the Atlantic is another and Buzzfeed is too. Buzzfeed is just really good at making content for the ADD types like me who sometimes just want to read something entertaining for 3 minutes.
Ten years ago, I would have been incensed that Buzzfeed would have approached the advertisement /content line the way they have, but at that time, consumers were still expecting to pay for content. Now, I’m much more open to alternative forms of revenue generation because we, the consumer, have broken the pact.