BuzzFeed’s Secret Sauce

Farhad Manjoo claims to have reversed engineered the most successful viral posts on BuzzFeed and concludes the site simply repackages minor hits from Reddit.

Once you understand how central Reddit is to BuzzFeed, it’s like spotting the wizard behind the curtain. Whenever you see a popular BuzzFeed post, search Reddit, and all will be revealed. A post called “30 Very Sound Pieces of Advice,” full of photos showing amusing life lessons? You’ll find many of its pictures by searching Reddit for “advice,” “sound advice,” “best advice,” and other such phrases. (You can complete your search by looking at Google Images and IMGur, too.) How about “19 Things That Will Drive Your OCD Self Insane”? Search for phrases involving “OCD.” “Fourteen of the Most Fabulous Animals in the Kingdom” — amazing pictures of animals striking glam poses? Just search the Web for “Bitch, I’m Fabulous,” a well-known Web meme, with particular animals (i.e., here’s a fabulous pigeon, a fabulous gorilla and a fabulous llama). Thirty-three Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed in You”? That mines an old meme, one that’s easy to find all over the Web — including in a BuzzFeed post from last year, “12 Extremely Disappointed Animals.

This isn’t entirely surprising to anyone working and playing on the Internet. Anyway, Manjoo takes a dismissive tact towards BuzzFeed, while Ezra Klein defends the site.

The broader point is that BuzzFeed is providing real value here. The Internet is awesome, but it’s also huge, and there’s a real role for people able to bring the best of it to your doorstep.

I agree with Klein and would take it one step further that places like BuzzFeed and Reddit depend upon blogs (like this one) to curate its sprawling troves of content. So much content flows into and out of those sites everyday that it’s even hard to track all the good stuff on a regular basis. And, I would say that if BuzzFeed needs to post videos of dolphins pooping rainbows so they can afford the original content of BuzzFeed’s newer verticles like FWD and Politics, then I’m okay with that trade-off.

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