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BuzzFeed continues to belly flop off its “open platform” | PandoDaily


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The issue here is that if you’re running a publishing platform, you can’t tend towards openness. Either you’re completely open, or you have strict guidelines and rules and then enforce them. Otherwise, you’re inevitably going to be an enabler of unpaid marketing messages and propaganda. Those messages will then be seen under your banner, and your brand has to wear that taint for as long as the piece remains visible on the Internet. Even if you throw your hands up and say “This is not produced by our staff,” you are still “endorsing” the content by letting people use your technology, your template, your design, and your home URL.

I understand that BuzzFeed is trying to do something new in blending the editorial power of a publication with the scalability of user-generated content. Experiments in media are good, especially as the digital landscape is still changing so rapidly, and the economics of the industry are mid-upheaval. And I agree with BuzzFeed that it should give short shrift to such posts as the Ultimate Unique Gift Guide for Guys, which are obviously just trying to shill their products.

But this experiment is not working, and it has the potential for harm – not just to the BuzzFeed brand, which gets tarnished when interest groups use its platform to promote their own ends, but also to people in general, who might be duped into thinking that the content from those interests groups is the work of balanced journalism. That might happen in only a small minority of cases, but that it happens more than zero times is a problem for everyone.

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