Buzzfeed Goes Global

Evgeny Morozov expects the site’s new translation project to hurt foreign news outlets:

Here is BuzzFeed’s version of “global village”: If its plan works, more and more people around the globe will be reading about U.S. popular culture in their native languages. No, what it is interested in is taking viral stories that have already proven their worth in English and taking them global, conquering even more eyeballs that were previously hard to reach due to language barriers.

In the process, it gains even more traffic and could someday enter local advertising markets—BuzzFeed is launching local editions in Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese, too. National news players that produce genuine hard news—the kind that takes money to report and might not receive many likes and shares on social networks, as it focuses on issues that are grim rather than viral—would have a powerful new competitor.

There’s no scenario in which BuzzFeed’s “cosmopolitan turn” is good for foreign news sites: They will be pressed to either soften up their own news coverage—to boost social media friendliness—or be faced with the prospect of making even less money off their online advertising.

The Buzzfeed model is not inevitable; it gets tired pretty quickly; and it can and has financed real journalism – like Ben Smith’s or Chris Geidner’s or McKay Coppins’. We’ll adapt. But Buzzfeed’s voracity could do a lot of damage to real journalism in the long run. Its core innovation – passing off advertizing as editorial, and refusing to call it advertorial – has spread far and wide to almost every media outlet. I mean, when you read Forbes now, do you really know if you’re reading something paid for by a company or written by an actual independent journalist? I can’t unless I take time to examine it very closely.

Update from a reader:

The passage in question, as quoted on the Dish, is from a previous version of the Slate article that contained several errors. Slate has since issued a correction and removed or altered sentences from the portion of the article quoted.

Our pull-quote from Morozov’s piece has now been replaced with the updated version. Slate‘s full correction is after the jump:

This article originally used different analytics platforms to compare the BBC’s and BuzzFeed’s traffic. The sentence about the BBC has been removed because the comparisons are not exact. The piece also said that “The Viral Web in Real Time” is BuzzFeed’s motto. It was a prominently displayed tag line on the site for some time, but no longer is. The article also said that BuzzFeed is not interested in bringing local foreign news to the English-language blogosphere; BuzzFeed has a foreign editor and correspondents in Turkey, Syria, and Moscow. That sentence has been removed. The article also originally suggested that BuzzFeed is entering local advertising markets in foreign countries. BuzzFeed is not currently in local markets.

The original pull-quote, for the record:

BuzzFeed does not seem to be interested in finding overlooked stories in the foreign press and bringing them to the masses, in English or in any other language. No, what it is interested in is taking viral stories that have already proven their worth in English and taking them global, conquering even more eyeballs that were previously hard to reach due to language barriers.

In the process, it gains even more traffic and enters local advertising markets—BuzzFeed is launching local editions in Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese, too. National news players that produce genuine hard news—the kind that takes money to report and might not receive many likes and shares on social networks, as it focuses on issues that are grim rather than viral—would have a powerful new competitor.

There’s no scenario in which BuzzFeed’s “cosmopolitan turn” is good for foreign news sites: They will be pressed to either soften up their own news coverage—to boost social media friendliness—or be faced with the prospect of making even less money off their online advertising.