Lily Sieradzki | Media Junkie
Buzzfed and happy
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 01:10
35 Happiest Moments in Animal History?” Yeah, I’m definitely going to be clicking on that. Who can refuse a list full of adorable derpy kitties and puppies smiling together? Cue instant “awww.”
“19 Most Ironic Facts of All Time?” Sounds kinda fun and just like something my dad would send me in an e-mail. And of course, it includes the story of how the Segway inventor died in a Segway accident. Is that ironic, or just sad?
“Rapper’s Real Name or Republican Congressman?” CLICK. Hell yes. Rodney Alexander? Aubrey Graham? William Drayton, Jr.? It’s harder than it looks.
BuzzFeed is pretty much my go-to form of endless, mindless entertainment. Apparently, a lot of other people like it too — the site had 85 million visitors this August, with total traffic tripling over the past year. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, founder Jonah Peretti is planning to expand the site past the realm of the English language by using foreign students of English to translate the lists. Why? Because, as Peretti maintains, BuzzFeed’s appeal is universal.
What exactly is it that makes BuzzFeed so widely liked, so successful? What’s the secret? Here’s my personal theory: it knows exactly what we want.
First of all, BuzzFeed is incredibly visually appealing. Lists, or as the Wall Street Journal refers to them, “listicles,” are easy to digest and require relatively little actual thinking. They’re also just so attractive to read, for some reason. For example, when you see an article called, say,”10 fail-safe ways to succeed in life,” DUH you’re going to try.
They are heavy on the visuals, with pictures or gifs (pronounced with a hard g, as I just learned) and easy on the text, which is mostly descriptive of what’s happening in the visual and doesn’t add any real content. As a friend recently told me, “It’s just so ... pretty!”
This bite-sized intake of information is similar to Twitter in some ways — you can avoid reading the whole, tedious news article and instead just get the bare bones of the story: the headline. But you can also still read articles. Yes, believe it or not, BuzzFeed does offer news and political commentary. I won’t say anything about the quality of their reporting, but the fact that they offer it shows that they know we don’t want just want kittens and celebrity gossip — we like to feel informed as well.
But the core of why BuzzFeed succeeds is because it capitalizes on the viral nature of the Internet. As we know, these days the Internet is full to bursting with memes, or little snatches of cultural information that get shared and shared until they’re impossible to avoid.
BuzzFeed essentially creates lists of memes, basing them off things that have gone viral before (AKA, people falling, romantic love stories, throwbacks to the ’90s, etc.). It then sets them up to go viral, both on its own site and outside, by organizing their visibility based on their popularity, or how many views and shares they’ve received. The up-button category allows you to see which lists are “trending” and which you should therefore look at.
BuzzFeed also lets the user categorize a list as “LOL,” “win,” “cute,” “omg,” “trashy,” “fail” or “wtf.” These labels are the essence of what a meme is. Without finding an intellectual rationale behind why people are so obsessed with cute animals doing weird things, you can simply leave it as “LOL.” And it makes sense.
Lily Sieradzki is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at Lily.Sieradzki@tufts.edu.