Articles about "BuzzFeed"


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Can iPhone widgets make news apps cool again?

The Financial Times notably embraces HTML5 web apps — and print! — over mobile apps. Quartz, perhaps the most widely praised new media site of the last year or so, is similarly app-less. Vox and FiveThirtyEight launched this year without native apps, and the Gawker network gets by without them just fine, too, thank you very much. The tech-savvy folks at The Verge just killed theirs.

A native app can be expensive to develop and maintain, and unless your push notification strategy manages to provide real utility rather than sporadic annoyances, the only way a reader ever enters it is by deliberately searching for the icon — perhaps buried on the third page of a home screen or inside the dreaded Newsstand on iPhones — with no idea what content awaits.

In other words, iPhone apps have never included a “shop window,” as Edward Roussel, head of products for Dow Jones, put it – a place for people to see beyond the logo.

Visiting an iPhone app has been like visiting a homepage — and we all know what’s happening to homepages thanks to social “side doors.”

But now comes the release of iOS 8, which gives third-party app developers access to the “Today” view of the iPhone’s Notification Center. It’s where you can get a quick glance at your calendar, the weather and stock quotes — and now, links to BuzzFeed and Wall Street Journal content that deliver you straight to their apps.

These “widgets,” just a swipe away, present news organizations with a new way of enticing readers into “walled garden” apps; they “take the friction out of apps,” Roussel said. Even BuzzFeed, despite its sleek mobile app, has historically received a great majority of its mobile traffic from the web, according to Digiday. BuzzFeed, which is so good at enticing readers to its website via social media, now has a new way to begin enticing readers to its app.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about iOS 8 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, in June 2. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about iOS 8 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, in June 2. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Those who use Android devices will point out that this widget functionality has existed for years on their phones. Ryan Johnson, BuzzFeed’s head of mobile, said the BuzzFeed widget is important to its Android strategy: “Anecdotally, it’s used a surprising amount,” he said, but he couldn’t give specifics on that (BuzzFeed’s iOS audience is twice the size of its Android audience, and Android use is growing more quickly). Roussel said the Journal hasn’t experimented heavily with Android widgets, but that makes sense because 85 percent of the Journal’s app use comes via iOS devices. (Roussel does point out that major updates to the Journal’s Android apps are on the way later this year.)

The BuzzFeed widget for iOS 8 includes a large image to entice readers into the app, while The Wall Street Journal's widget is a more conservative list of headlines.

The BuzzFeed widget for iOS 8 includes a large image to entice readers into the app, while The Wall Street Journal’s widget is a more conservative list of headlines.

It makes sense that news organizations seem excited by the prospect of offering readers new entryways into apps. Users of BuzzFeed’s app share three times as much content as mobile web visitors do, according to Johnson. Roussel told me Journal app users view an average of 20 to 25 pages of content, while visitors to the mobile Web — many who likely arrive on a whim via social — view two or three. That behavior obviously makes apps more appealing to advertisers, too, he said. Breaking News and Yahoo News Digest have also added widgets to their iOS apps.

Apple has the market share, influential users, and cachet — particularly in the U.S. — to popularize features that others have offered first. If iOS opening up “Today” in the Notification Center to third-party developers fundamentally alters the way people use iPhones — as Roussel suspects is possible — those news organizations holding out on offering mobile apps might find reason to reconsider.


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BuzzFeed and Facebook Host Bowties & Burgers During 2014 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

Advice for newspaper editors: Pay attention to BuzzFeed

A group of legacy media executives was told on Monday that it has a lot to learn from the likes of BuzzFeed. “You may not approve of their editorial content,” said Amy Webb, CEO of Webbmedia Group. “But you must learn from their digital strategy.”

During a presentation at the ASNE-APME 2014: Fast Forward conference in Chicago, Webb praised BuzzFeed’s use of data analysis to predict user behavior based on variables like time of day, which photos are used, and social networks.

She mentioned Vox, Vice and even TMZ as brands with strong voices succeeding across platforms by shifting from the product business to the platform business.

Citing Media Insight Project research, American Press Institute executive editor Tom Rosenstiel told attendees “You do not have a ‘mobile audience’ or a ‘print audience.’” They aren’t distinct audiences, he said, because most Americans are cross-platform news consumers. A majority of them use four devices or technologies to access news per week.

“Technology is a user behavior, not an audience,” he said.

The web rewards specialization, Rosenstiel said, so the old “general store” model is outmoded for newspapers. He said editors should ask themselves what it is that makes them indispensable.

Webb made a similar point, showing screenshots the Baltimore Sun website to illustrate how newspapers frequently fail to emphasize what makes them unique and instead opt to emphasize the stories — like the Oscar Pistorius trial — that readers could find anywhere. She challenged editors to take a critical look at what they do and determine how well they really know their audiences.

You can access Webb’s presentation here, and Rosenstiel’s here (Powerpoint).

The conference put together a Storify from day one, which includes tweets from the first lively panel:

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Games

Games are serious business at news organizations

Later this month, Gannett plans to debut a page on USA Today’s website with 70 free-to-play games.

The page will include brain training and arcade-style games, said John Geddes, the company’s first director of gaming, entertainment, and events.

“We feel that expanding our portfolio to include titantransline additional popular games such as solitaire, mahjong, and brain teasers is a huge opportunity to not only provide something new for that existing audience but for us to also attract waves of new users,” Geddes said.

Gannett is merely the latest media company to expand its games offerings. Several news organizations have acknowledged the increasing importance of games, whether for storytelling or diversion:

  • The Washington Post has pulled together an in-house team to develop a platform that will allow the newsroom to easily create quizzes, leaderboards and surveys, said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, the paper’s managing editor for digital.
  • BuzzFeed — fresh from a $50 million infusion of capital from investment firm Andreessen Horowitz — has has created a small team of developers that will build games to be be paired alongside editorial content.
  • The New York Times recently launched a new mini-crossword puzzle available to non-subscribers and posted a job listing for a software engineer for games.
  • The Associated Press announced in May AP Video Puzzles, which allows users to solve puzzles built from historic videos.

Why all the playing around? Games, with their Facebook and Twitter-ready results, have caught on with users. The New York Times’ most popular piece of content in 2013 was this dialect quiz, which garnered more traffic than breaking coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, news of Pope Francis’ election and a personal column from Angelina Jolie explaining why she decided to undergo mastectomy surgery.

Similarly, Slate’s most popular piece of content to date was The Adele Dazeem Name Generator, which mangled users’ names in the aftermath of John Travolta’s faux pas at the 2014 The Academy Awards.

The market for games in news organizations is getting bigger because of the traffic the games generate, said Jessica Rovello, who cofounded the games company Arkadium in 2001. Arkadium will provide games to Gannett and, Rovello said, works with more than 30 publishers including the Los Angeles Times, CNN and The Washington Post.

“I think it’s expanding for one reason and one reason only: everyone is in an epic battle to acquire and retain users, and these quizzes have proved to be one of the best ways to get these users because they are so shared and so popular on social media,” Rovello said.

Gannett’s expansion into games began after June 2013, when the company created a task force that identified games as an area of growth for the company, Geddes said. He was named director of games strategy later that year. And after the company releases the games on USA Today’s website this month, it will focus on bringing them to other Gannett sites.

The audience for casual games is attractive for a couple reasons, Geddes said. Casual gamers are more likely to spend more time on a website per visit, and they’re more likely to visit the site again in the future. Games with social aspects, such as shareable leaderboards, also have the potential to bring new users into the site.

Further evidence of the rising popularity of games in news can be found at American University, which this year opened a lab devoted to creating games and debuted a master’s degree of game design in persuasive play.

The program’s director, Lindsay Grace, says he’s been approached by roughly one news organization per month seeking to combine games with editorial content since the program began. Non-disclosure agreements prevent him from being specific about the clients he’s working with, but he says the lab has partnerships with news organizations in the works. (Later this month AU is a cosponsor of a “NewsJam” at the Newseum, which aims to “inspire the spirit of political activism and news reporting into games.”)

Grace attributes the recent upswing in the popularity of games and quizzes to a few factors, including the ubiquity of mobile devices and a gradual shift to a culture that views play as productive. Done right, he says, games can also be useful storytelling tools, because they allow audiences to experience information in a new way.

“We process, retain and share experiences differently than reports,” Grace said. “Reports can be very efficient, but they may not have lasting impact. You can receive a report and forget the facts and figures, but an experience lasts in a different way.”

Grace cited two games that are particularly good at driving lessons home: Wired’s “Cutthroat Capitalism” — which explains the bloody economics of Somali piracy by making the user a pirate commander — and The New York Times’ “Gauging your Distraction,” which illustrates the dangers of texting and driving by forcing users to navigate a series of tollbooths while sending text messages. Read more

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Brian Kilmeade

‘Fox & Friends’: ‘We are not, we were not’ taking domestic violence lightly

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Program may feature fewer domestic violence jokes: “Fox & Friends” co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy had a real laff-fest over a video, released by TMZ, that showed the football player battering his then fiancée in an elevator. “I think the message is, take the stairs,” Kilmeade quipped. The program will address the remarks today. (WP) | That address in full:

    Peter King writes about the “lapse in reporting on my part” that led to him writing NFL officials had previously seen the Rice tape. “No one from the league has ever knocked down my report to me, and so I was surprised to see the claim today that league officials have not seen the tape.” (SI) | “At the time, it was important for the NFL to establish that it was taking great pains to investigate the incident.” (Deadspin) | Sally Jenkins: “It simply defies belief that league and team officials couldn’t have seen it if they wanted to.” (WP) | AP has seen a longer version of the video. (AP) | “Seedy as it feels to read it, TMZ is a triumph of a news organization.” (Politico)

  2. Piano Media buys Press+: The small Slovakian paywall company plans aggressive expansion in Latin America and Europe, Rick Edmonds reports. It has named Kelly Leach, the publisher of WSJ’s European edition, as its CEO. (Poynter) | Know your Piano: Ken Doctor wrote about the company in 2011. (Nieman) I wrote something in 2012. (Poynter) | Newsweek chose Piano to administer its paywall earlier this year. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
  3. More paywall news: Esquire asks readers to donate $2.99 before reading Tom Junod‘s 2003 article “The Falling Man.” The money will go to a scholarship fund at Marquette University named for James Foley. (AdAge)
  4. Politico plots move to Europe: Its Euro HQ will be in Brussels, Michael Calderone reports. “On Monday morning, Politico CEO Jim VandeHei told senior editors that the company’s plans for Europe are ‘much bigger than anyone is thinking.’” (HuffPost)
  5. BuzzFeed taps SimpleReach to do analytics for former partners: The publication is ending its partner network. “Publishers that sign up for the free service will get a limited, real-time dashboard of trending content, similar to what BuzzFeed was providing.” (Digiday) | Frédéric Filloux will not forgive BuzzFeed for those “Frozen” GIFs: “We never saw a down/mass market product morphing into a premium media,” he writes. (Monday Note) | **Cough** “Pet Sounds”! “Revolver”! **Cough**
  6. Carol Loomis talks about her career: “After my first story, which wasn’t very good, I got absolutely rabid about collecting every fact I could before I ever interviewed anybody,” she tells Ryan Chittum. “I believed that if you’ve done your homework, then about one minute into the interview they don’t even notice whether you’re a man or a woman.” (CJR)
  7. Man seeks j-school degree: 71-year-old Martti Lahtinen took a buyout from the Ottawa Citizen in 2009 after 23 years on the job, and has decided to finish his journalism degree. (His 97-year-old mother is encouraging him.) When Lahtinen gets his degree, Trevor Greenway reports, “He says he may just hang it on his wall and continue his retirement – or in his camper when he travels across Canada. He just hopes the school spells his name right.” (Metro)
  8. Front page of the day, selected by Kristen Hare: The Arizona Daily Sun fronts a photo of flooding in Phoenix. (Courtesy the Newseum)
    arizonasun-09092014 
  9. Scotsman covers independence movement: Edinburgh’s Scotsman newspaper removed a ban on mentions of a pro-independance blog, Wings Over Scotland, in its comments section after Martin Belam tested out rumors of a ban and wrote about it. (Martin Belam) | Earlier this week, the Scotsman ran an article suggesting an ISIS link to Scotland’s independence movement. (The Scotsman) | The country’s independence referendum is next Thursday. | Really good point: Will an independent Scotland get its own Eurovision entry? (BuzzFeed)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Mike McCarthy is now senior vice president and general manager of CNN International. Previously, he was senior vice president of programming at CNN. (The Wrap) | David Fallis is now deputy investigative editor at The Washington Post. Previously, he was an investigative reporter there. (The Washington Post) | Usha Sahay is a news editor at The Huffington Post. Previously, she was director of digital outreach at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. (@ushasahay) | James Corden will host “The Late Late Show.” He is an actor and comedian. (The Guardian) | John Laposky is now editor-in-chief of This Week in Consumer Electronics. He was managing editor there. (New Bay Media) | Job of the day: The International Business Times is looking for a technology reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

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Career Beat: Fired BuzzFeed editor Benny Johnson joins National Review

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Benny Johnson will be social media editor for National Review. Previously, he was viral politics editor at BuzzFeed. (Politico)
  • Joe Scarborough will be a contributor to “Meet the Press.” He is the host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. (The Hill)
  • Shari Levine is now executive vice president of current production for Bravo Media. She was senior vice president of current production there. (NBC Universal)
  • Adam Bryant is now a deputy science editor at The New York Times. He is a business writer there. (Poynter)
  • Howard Mittman is now publisher of GQ. Previously, he was publisher of Wired. (Condé Nast)
  • Chris Mitchell is now publisher of Vanity Fair. Previously, he was publisher at GQ. (Condé Nast)
  • Daniella Diaz is a web producer at Politico. Previously, she was a staff writer at The Monitor. (Politico)
  • Rebecca Adams is now a staff writer at The Huffington Post covering family and relationships. She was lifestyle editor there. (The Huffington Post)
  • Anna Orso is now a reporter and curator for Billy Penn. She was a reporter for the (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) Patriot-News. (Billy Penn) |

Job of the day: The Center for Public Integrity is looking for a fellow. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

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politico-logo

Clash over Abramson’s style may have figured in Politico editor’s resignation

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Rick Berke leaves Politico: The publication’s executive editor resigned Sunday, citing “an acceptance by the three of us that the dynamics were just not there for us to function seamlessly.” The other two people in that “three of us” formulation, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, tell staffers “We have very big plans for expanding POLITICO here and elsewhere and need in place a leadership team that shares our vision, ambitions and full faith.” (HuffPost) | Erik Wemple passes on word of an awkward “Politico University” workshop in May, after Berke’s former boss Jill Abramson was fired: “Berke got a bit off-topic, putting forth his opinion that Abramson was an inept and insensitive manager. Some female staffers objected to that characterization, and the session blew up in awkward polemics about the internal politics of a competing outlet.” (WP) | “Rick Berke does not capitalize “Politico” in his resignation message. That’s a strategic difference right there” (@johnmcquaid)
  2. Benny Johnson gets a second chance: The former BuzzFeed reporter, fired for plagiarism in July, will be social media director at National Review. “Benny made a terrible mistake,” National Review Editor Rich Lowry tells Mike Allen. “But he has owned up to it and learned from it.” (Politico) | “#FF @RichLowry” (@bennyjohnson) | “‘God and Man at #YOLO’” (@sissenberg)
  3. Wealthy owners sought for DFM papers: “Newspaper Guild-represented staff at major newspapers including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press are publishing ads online and in print seeking local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms.” (Newspaper Guild) | Do you know anyone who’d like to mix a little ink into their blue blood? Contact TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer (bernie@newsguild.org) or TNG-CWA Acting Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens (sara@newsguild.org)
  4. Ben Smith on the death of the newspaper “bundle”: “[T]here are signs that the unbundling may be followed by a rebundling. … And so editors like me are wrestling with two questions: can we put the bundle back together? And should we?” (The Guardian) | FREEKY FLASHBACK: “If anything, BuzzFeed, with its massive traffic and fat wallet, has reengineered the ‘bundle’ so it can actually add news coverage in an advertising climate that’s caused other publications to get really good at subtraction.” (Poynter)
  5. Why won’t Bloomberg report on itself? The news organization’s “decision to not write about Mr. Bloomberg’s return to his company, and Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to speak with a rival news organization, displeased a number of Bloomberg’s journalists,” Ravi Somaiya writes. “To retreat on a newsworthy story in deference to your owners is bad policy,” Ann Marie Lipinski tells him. (NYT)
  6. Remembering Steven Sotloff: About 1,000 people gathered in Pinecrest, Florida, to remember the slain journalist. Sotloff “went to places we only read about in the headlines, sought out people, became their voice,” Rabbi Terry Bookman said in a eulogy. “And what a beautiful voice it was.” (Miami Herald) | Clips from his work at Central Florida Future (Central Florida Future) | Related: David Carr on the “mastery of medium and message” Sotloff’s murderers show in their video. “ISIS seems to understand that the same forces that carried the Ice Bucket Challenge’s message of uplift — the desire to be part of something, to be in the know — can be used to spread fear and terror as well.” (NYT)
  7. Chuck Todd debuts as “Meet the Press” host: “It will take more than a former bouncer with awesome tats to save ‘Meet the Press,’” Manuel Roig-Franzia writes. “But in a genre that sometimes has the feel of a wax museum, it’s a start.” (WP) | The show “isn’t going to be turned around in six days or six weeks,” Todd tells Brian Stelter. (CNN)
  8. Why did The Plain Dealer pull three top reporters from courts beat? “The reason bandied about the Plain Dealer newsroom in the wake of the announcements is that the stories written by [Rachel] Dissell, [John] Caniglia, and [Jim] McCarty were generating some of the highest traffic online. Since these three reporters still work for the union-employed Plain Dealer, NEOMG and NEOMG boss Chris Quinn could not take credit for the Internet traffic. By replacing his award-winning journos, Quinn can now claim the clicks for future court stories.” (Cleveland Scene)
  9. Ferguson Fellowship funded: $40,319 was pledged by 8:19 a.m. Monday, two days before the deadline. Two people took the $5,000 package, which includes a lunch at the Ferguson McDonald’s with Ryan J. Reilly and Ferguson Fellow Mariah Stewart. (Beacon Reader)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Benny Johnson will be social media editor for National Review. Previously, he was viral politics editor at BuzzFeed. (Politico) | Joe Scarborough will be a contributor to “Meet the Press.” He is the host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. (The Hill) | Rebecca Adams is now a staff writer at The Huffington Post covering family and relationships. She was lifestyle editor there. (The Huffington Post) | Anna Orso is now a reporter and curator for Billy Penn. She was a reporter for the (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) Patriot-News. (Billy Penn) | Shari Levine is now executive vice president of current production for Bravo Media. She was senior vice president of current production there. (NBC Universal) | Adam Bryant is now a deputy science editor at The New York Times. He is a business writer there. (Poynter) | Howard Mittman is now publisher of GQ. Previously, he was publisher of Wired. (Condé Nast) | Chris Mitchell is now publisher of Vanity Fair. Previously, he was publisher at GQ. (Condé Nast) | Daniella Diaz is a web producer at Politico. Previously, she was a staff writer at The Monitor. (Politico) | Job of the day: The Center for Public Integrity is looking for a fellow. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

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Diane Sawyer

After Sawyer’s final ABC World News broadcast, all 3 nightly anchors are now white men

mediawiremorningYo. Here are some media stories.

  1. Is the Yo app ridiculous or revolutionary? That’s the question Cory Blair asks. It’s definitely the former, but it has potential to be the latter, especially now that users can send links and not just notifications with no content. Robert Hernandez has an interesting idea for what news organizations like The Washington Post could use Yo for: “whenever an unarmed person dies at the hands of the police, or every time somebody is killed with a gun.” (American Journalism Review)
  2. Diane Sawyer anchors her final ABC World News broadcast: But she’s staying with the network. David Muir is her successor. “Now, all three nightly news anchors are once again white men,” Brian Stelter notes. (CNN)
  3. NPR’s Michel Martin heads to Ferguson: The former “Tell Me More” host will lead a town hall meeting today. (Poynter) | Yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Lynden Steele and Gary Hairlson spoke with Poynter’s Kenny Irby in a live video chat. (Poynter) | Kristen Hare’s ever-fluctuating list of journalists in Ferguson is down to 109. It peaked at 148 last week. (Twitter) | Related: Twitter was widely celebrated for breaking news during the protests, but Nick Bilton writes that “while those live streams were seen as an unfiltered window into events as they unfolded, they often bore little resemblance to reality.” (The New York Times) | Related: The first Ferguson dispatch paid for by Huffington Post’s controversial crowdfunded fellowship. (Huffington Post) | Previously: HuffPost’s Ferguson Fellow Mariah Stewart: “This is huge for me.” (Poynter)
  4. Playboy.com goes SFW: The new site will have a “safe-for-work look and editorial focus,” Ricardo Bilton reports. “More classic nude fare can be found on Playboy Plus, Playboy’s digital subscription service.” Sixty percent of Playboy’s traffic is social. (Digiday)
  5. A Sopranos saga: Is Tony Soprano dead? Vox.com wrote that “David Chase finally answers the question he wants fans to stop asking” in a story Wednesday. (Vox.com) | Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge (also a Vox Media site) was pissed that @SavedYouAClick tweeted the reveal of the story and “stole an experience” from readers. (The Verge) | And now Sopranos creator David Chase says the Vox.com story by Martha P. Nochimson misconstrued his remarks about the show’s finale. (NYT/ArtsBeat)
  6. Facebook’s ‘algorithmic censorship’: Here’s Alex Hern on the frightening power Facebook wields when it tweaks its News Feed algorithm: “The lack of transparency around this isn’t just worrying for media types: it should be concerning for everyone.” (The Guardian)
  7. NYT subscriptions still have room to grow: A Re/code story this week by Edmund Lee indicated New York Times digital-only subscriptions have plateaued; Ryan Chittum argues otherwise: “On a year-over-year basis, digital subs were up 19 percent in the second quarter and paywall revenue was up 13.5 percent. That’s hardly hitting a wall.” But he emphasizes growth in digital ad revenue will of course be crucial for medium- to long-term success. (Columbia Journalism Review)
  8. Who’s the most evasive press secretary of them all? BuzzFeed’s John Templon tracks the number of “weasel phrases” used by White House press secretaries in 5,000 press briefings since 1993. (BuzzFeed)
  9. Newspaper front page of the day: The Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune, selected by Kristen Hare. (Newseum)
    MN_DNT
     
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Noah Chestnut will be the lead developer for BuzzFeed’s news app. He’s currently director of labs at The New Republic. (Capital) | Rob Mennie is now senior vice president of Gannett Broadcasting and general manager for WTLV/WJXX in Jacksonville, Florida. Previously, he was senior vice president of news for Gannett Broadcasting. (Gannett) | Ben Walsh will be a business reporter at The Huffington Post. He’s currently a writer for Reuters. (‏@BenDWalsh) | Kimberly Leonard will be a healthcare reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Previously, she was a health producer there. (@leonardkl) | Larry Abramson is now dean of the journalism school at the University of Montana. Previously, he was a correspondent for National Public Radio. Eric Whitney is now director of news for Montana Public Radio. Previously, he was a health reporter for National Public Radio. (The Missoulian) | Job of the day: KFSN in Fresno, California is looking for a news photojournalist and live truck operator. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would you like this roundup each morning? This week, please email me: skirkland@poynter.org. You can reach your regular roundup guy at: abeaujon@poynter.org


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Correction: The headline in this post originally misspelled Diane Sawyer’s last name. Read more

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Career Beat: BuzzFeed names product lead for news app

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Noah Chestnut will be the lead developer for BuzzFeed’s news app. He’s currently director of labs at The New Republic. (Capital)
  • Rob Mennie is now senior vice president of Gannett Broadcasting and general manager for WTLV/WJXX in Jacksonville, Florida. Previously, he was senior vice president of news for Gannett Broadcasting. (Gannett)
  • Ben Walsh will be a business reporter at The Huffington Post. He’s currently a writer for Reuters. (‏@BenDWalsh)
  • Kimberly Leonard will be a healthcare reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Previously, she was a health producer there. (@leonardkl)
  • Larry Abramson is now dean of the journalism school at the University of Montana. Previously, he was a correspondent for National Public Radio. Eric Whitney is now director of news for Montana Public Radio. Previously, he was a health reporter for National Public Radio. (The Missoulian)

Job of the day: KFSN in Fresno, California is looking for a news photojournalist and live truck operator. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

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Let's Get Weird: A BuzzFeed Event sponsored by The CW

BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith: ‘We didn’t fully think through’ the removal of old posts

Several months ago, roughly half a dozen early BuzzFeed writers were told to go back through their pre-2012 work and decide what they wanted to save. Anything they didn’t want to keep or update should be removed from the site, they were told.

“Go through your stuff and save what you care about,” is how BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith summarizes the direction.

The result was that thousands of posts were removed from BuzzFeed, without any notice or disclosure. The removal of content was revealed by Gawker’s J.K. Trotter in two posts, the most recent of which outlined the previously unknown scale of the cull.

Smith was off in the woods on vacation when Trotter’s latest piece was published last week. This morning I spoke to him by phone, and he said BuzzFeed did not handle the purge of old content as well as it should have.

“I don’t suggest that this was masterpiece of a really well-thought-through process,” he said. “In retrospect was we should have done is we should have had a pop-up on that page when you hit that URL [of a removed article]. It’s stuff made at a time when people were really not thinking of themselves as doing journalism; they saw themselves as working in a lab.”

Smith views the decision to remove the old content, and the scrutiny and criticism of how it was done, as part of BuzzFeed “growing up.”

He said there was no central process for deciding what stayed and what was deleted. The early BuzzFeed writers decided for themselves. They were told that anything they wanted to save had to have any broken links or missing fields for the CMS filled in, according to Smith.

“Many of the older stories are technically broken and some of them were kind of done as inside jokes,” he said. Others had jokes that “didn’t age well,” or were early games made in Flash.

Smith believes the biggest category of removed articles were ones that were broken, either in terms of outside links or in the way they displayed thanks to CMS changes over time. Some stories did not meet their standards for sourcing and attribution, but Smith suggested that was not the primary driver for removal in most cases.

Of course, we have to take his word for that, since all the evidence has disappeared and there is no list of what was disappeared.

“We didn’t fully think through as we should have what the reaction would be,” he said. “We should have thought a bit more about how this would be perceived.”

BuzzFeed is many things

Gawker’s revelation of the scale of deletion came just days after BuzzFeed announced a new investment of $50 million from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Investor Chris Dixon wrote about the investment on hiss blog, and described BuzzFeed as akin to a technology company. But it’s also a news operation, as Smith notes. And as CEO Jonah Peretti has said, for a long time they were nothing like a news org:

BuzzFeed is many things, and is trying to be even more.

Smith described BuzzFeed to me as a “Media company that includes a news organization, but that is not solely that.”

It’s a young company in transition. Perhaps nothing has served to communicate the evolution — and contradictions — of BuzzFeed better than the Great Content Cull of 2014.

When they looked at dealing with older content that was broken and not up to new standards (more on the latter below), Smith said they chose to deal with the older content in a way that reflected what BuzzFeed was at the time — meaning a lab and not a news organization.

“We returned to it in that spirit, and not as we are now,” he said.

I said in my view it’s problematic for them to apply old standards when part of the motivation for choosing what to delete was the application of new standards. You don’t get to apply new standards and then enforce them using old methods that fail to meet new standards.

Smith said he felt that was “valid criticism.”

He said that one factor that contributed to the problematic way this was done is that he’s always conscious of trying to keep the experimental heart of BuzzFeed alive, even as they transition into a new kind of organization.

“One of the big challenges for me has been maintaining that spirit, which is very central to how we operate,” he said. It can be “a big challenge to maintain that experimental spirit at the moment when a lot of people are looking at us, and it’s more intimidating to try something and fail.”

New standards

BuzzFeed deputy editor in chief Shani Hilton is leading a new initiative to set standards that will apply across the organization, and to also develop specific standards and guidelines for each BuzzFeed group.

Prior to that kicking off, Smith said that editorial standards were not put down on paper in one place; it was more of a matter of asking and expecting employees to adhere to basic ethical behavior.

“The way I have always preferred to operate as a reporter, and I think the ethos we started with when we were a much smaller shop staring in 2012, was that the rules are pretty clear: don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal,” he said. “And that journalist ethics are [basic] ethics, and those are things that no one should do.”

After the Benny Johnson plagiarism scandal, Smith realized that “perhaps these things are not as obvious as I had assumed, and that they were harder to communicate in a bigger organization.”

So now Hilton is leading an initiative to develop clear, written standards for BuzzFeed editorial, whether you are a political writer, within the experimental BuzzTeam group, working for BuzzFeed Food, etc.

“We have a very ambitious journalism organization, but it’s not the only thing we do,” Smith said. “A lot of what we do in editorial is journalism, but we also do stuff that isn’t. We’re trying to make clear to ourselves and to others what are the standards that apply to things that are and that aren’t journalism.”

He expects there will be one set of global standards that apply to everyone, and specific guidelines for each group. He gave the example that a news journalist could never accept a blender from the manufacturer, but that the food team “has to figure out how long they can test the blender for, and whether they can include a photograph in the article,” among other things.

“Most readers see items one by one on the Internet and I think that basically it’s more important that we get things right across the board,” he said. “If you’re not doing news that’s not an excuse for misinforming people. We want to have uniformly high standards.”

The challenge right now is that in attempting to enforce new standards BuzzFeed applied old, low, standards. (And its new, higher standards are also clearly still in development.)

The result of the new process for defining standards at BuzzFeed will hopefully result in some excellent policies. But while the existence of them is essential, it doesn’t guarantee anything.

People have to live ethics and standards. They must become part of the organizational culture. It’s about how people behave, and the decisions that are made.

That’s one fundamental reason why the undisclosed mass deletion of old BuzzFeed content struck a chord: it’s a concrete example of how BuzzFeed as an organization behaves — right now.

Smith said they are learning from this, especially when it comes to deleting content.

“If anybody didn’t know this before, we absolutely know now that the best way to call attention to something is to delete it,” he said. Read more

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Journalists fight directive to write more stories

mediawiremorningGood morning. You have earned the weekend before you. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. BuzzFeeed honcho talks about deleted posts: “[I]f you look at that era of BuzzFeed through the lens of newspaper or magazine journalism, you would say [deleting those posts] was a strange decision,” Jonah Peretti tells Will Oremus. “We just didn’t and don’t look at that period of BuzzFeed as being a journalistic enterprise.” (Slate) | But the posts disappeared this year, when BuzzFeed is a journalistic enterprise. Amy Rose Spiegel‘s February 2013 post “What’s the Deal With Jazz” reappeared after Oremus pointed out it had vanished, too. Editor’s note: “This post has been reinstated after it was brought to our attention that the author deleted it, against our editorial standards.” (Gawker) | Hot J.K. Trotter/Craig Silverman/Mathew Ingram action | Related: Summer Anne Burton talks about BuzzFeed’s new “distributed” division. “I think there’s a good chance that in five to ten years the internet is going to look really different, just like it did five or ten years ago,” she tells Catalina Albeanu. “We just want to figure that out and figure out what people like and people share, and establish an audience in those places and show that we’re the best at making things that people love to share.” (journalism.co.uk) | “Buzzfeed is creating a team to develop web and mobile games, according to a listing on the company’s jobs site.” (Capital)
  2. Journalists fight directive to write more stories: The Chicago Newspaper Guild has filed a grievance against the Sun-Times Media Group over the Pioneer Press Group’s requirement that its journalists write 2.5 stories per day. (Chicago Newspaper Guild) | “The guidelines explicitly direct managers to exercise reasonable discretion and common sense in dealing with reporters who have provided acceptable reasons for not meeting the daily expectation,” Sun-Times VP for labor relations Ted Rilea says. (Robert Feder)
  3. “Platisher” occasions editor’s note: “Caroline tried very hard to avoid using the word ‘platisher’ in this post, but it really does need to be mentioned here.” (Nieman)
  4. It pays to tweet a lot: Wesley Lowery‘s sudden silence on social media Wednesday night “told those back in the newsroom everything they needed to know.” (The Washington Post) | The Seattle Police Department has asked the public to “Tweet Smart” during emergencies. “When any entity that holds power over us encourages us to limit our expression for any reason, it is probably better for us to err on the side of expressing more than it would want than less,” Mónica Guzmán writes. (GeekWire) | On Ferguson, The Drudge Report went from “harmonious orchestra of dog whistles” to “Big government versus violent protesters.” (The Awl)
  5. Carl Icahn wants a say in how Gannett split occurs: Entities Icahn controls and partners with bought a 6.6 percent stake in the company in the belief its shares “were undervalued and that value could be created by splitting the Issuer into separate print and broadcast companies,” they write in a filing. They want “discussions with representatives of the Issuer’s management and board of directors relating to the planned separation, corporate governance, capitalization and capital allocation.” (SEC) | “We are happy to discuss our plans with Mr. Icahn, as we do with all of our shareholders,” Gannett spokesperson Jeremy Gaines tells Gary Strauss. (USA Today)
  6. Chuck Todd will replace David Gregory on “Meet the Press”: “Todd, for whom the term ‘political junkie’ seems invented, will remain the political director for the network news division, but will give up his mid-morning MSNBC newscast ‘The Daily Rundown.’” (CNN) | “The transition brings Gregory’s time at NBC to a crushing end. ‘Meet the Press’ has seen some of its worst ratings ever during his time as host.” (HuffPost) | “I leave NBC as I came – humbled and grateful.” (@davidgregory)
  7. NYT names Alexandra MacCallum AME for audience development: She’ll report to both Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Editorial Page Editor Andy Rosenthal. (NYT)
  8. Why can’t Europe build its own Huffington Post? “There is a belief in European media that there is no place for the kind of upstarts that are financed and feted and followed by millions in America,” Paul Rapacioli writes. “But this is quite obviously wrong, as the arrival of Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Business Insider demonstrate.” (StrategyEye)
  9. How did I miss this story? Brian Webb delivers newspapers and magazines to customers of Webb’s of Leverington, a newsstand in Cambridgeshire that he owns. And since March he has delivered letters bearing a “Webb’s Postal Service” stamp at 30p (50 cents) a pop, too. He’s up to 1,000 letters a day. “I’m never going to hurt the Post Office but it has gone so well that it has blown us away,” Webb told Ian Burrell in July. (The Independent, via Steffen Konrath) | “Are you still paying 62p for first class Stamps? our customers pay 30p guaranteed next day delivery” (Webbs of Leverington)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Becky Bowers will be editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog. She’s currently manager of digital operations for PolitiFact and PunditFact. (@beckybowers) | Thomas Claybaugh is now president and publisher for Gannett Central New York Media. Previously, he was general manager of Delmarva Media Group. (Gannett) | Terry Horne will be publisher and president for the (Salem, Oregon) Statesman Journal. He was president and publisher of the Pensacola (Florida) News Journal. (Gannett) | Jason Leopold will be a reporter at Vice News. Previously, he was a reporter for Al Jazeera America. (Politico) | Ryan Tate, Margot Williams and Cora Currier have joined The Intercept. Tate will be the site’s deputy editor. Previously, he was a contributor for Wired and Gawker. Williams will be a research editor. Previously, she was research editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Currier will be a reporter for the site. Formerly, she was a reporting fellow at ProPublica. (The Intercept) | Chris Voccio is now publisher of the Niagara Gazette and the Tonawanda News. Previously, he was publisher at the Norwich Bulletin. Job of the day: The Gaston Gazette is looking for “a reporter who doesn’t bore us.” Don’t be “dull” — get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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