The Buzzfeedification of the internet is now reaching epic proportions, with virtually every major publication putting up annoying listicles and shocking headlines to generate pageviews. And it’s all the goddam time.
This was on the front page of the Huff Post:
This – a ‘Top 5’ story about their own story, was on the front page of Rolling Stone:
And this incredibly stupid post about dating runners was on Thought Catalog today:
I’d like to preface this rant by saying that I completely understand websites’ need to up their page views. That’s how they make their money, and writers/editors/owners need to eat. But how long can this go on for? When do major publications stop having their own identities and become part of one giant, indistinguishable mass of lists and bullshit shock stories? The trend is, in my opinion, a very dangerous one and risks turning credible sites into content mills with no integrity or lasting power. The argument for listicles and “Man Blows Up 27 Cats” pieces goes something like this: it boosts pageviews and generates enough money for other journalists to do real work. However, if you are publishing 50 posts a day, and 47 of them are BuzzFeed type nonsense, what do you get known for? Buzzfeed hires real reporters who do real journalism, but who knows about any of them? Their best journalist to date (or at least with any real personality) was Michael Hastings, who sadly died in a car crash.
Now, this is what happens on any given day:
There is nothing wrong with the occasional top 10 list, and sometimes, crazy stories are worth sharing. But not every minute of every f**king day.
Here’s a suggestion: if all the major publications got together and agreed to put a limit on this nonsense, capping viral content at 15% of articles published a day, they could then go to advertisers and demand more ad dollars for higher value content . Or in other words, they could show some brand integrity for their own sakes, and for everyone else’s sanity.
Sadly, this will most likely never happen. The relentless chase for market share means that eventually, they’ll all turn into online versions of the National Inquirer.
And that may already have happened.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.