Barack Obama interview 'early test case' for BuzzFeed News translation

Last Tuesday, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith sat down with President Barack Obama in BuzzFeed's first-ever interview with a sitting president. And as soon as Smith filed his story, BuzzFeed staffers got to work translating it.

The English version of the story, which was published on Feb. 10 just before midnight, was followed hours later by four separate versions of the story, each in different languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.

The translation effort, which was led by international news coordinator Mariana Marcaletti, represents an "early test case" in a burgeoning push to adapt BuzzFeed News content for international editions, said Scott Lamb, vice president of international for BuzzFeed.

[caption id="attachment_321325" align="alignleft" width="460"]BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith's interview with President Barack Obama was translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith's interview with President Barack Obama was translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.[/caption]

"We chose this story because of the global interest in what President Obama has to say, and because we knew the interview would touch on some international themes," Lamb told Poynter in an email interview.

Each version of the interview was assigned a main translator and editor. They had a deadline of 3 a.m., after which they began publishing the stories on BuzzFeed's various social media channels.

Marcaletti, who also translated the story into Spanish, worked with the lead editors of BuzzFeed Germany, BuzzFeed France, BuzzFeed Brazil and BuzzFeed Español, with assistance from a freelance translator, Lamb said. The other editions of the story were promoted on BuzzFeed's international social media handles and international homepages.

BuzzFeed has been translating some of its content since 2013, mostly lists and quizzes, Lamb said. Recently, the company has been translating more of its news articles using staff editors and translators.

"But as our News team has scaled, and, with the international news coordination project, we've been translating longer, reported stories we think will be of interest to various international readers," Lamb said. "We thought BuzzFeed's first interview with a sitting U.S. President would be globally relevant."

Most of the international interest in the translated posts came from Latin America and Europe, through news organizations including Spain's El Pais, Germany's Der Spiegel and Argentina's La Nacioñ, Lamb said. The greatest number of international readers came from Brazil and France.

In August, BuzzFeed announced it was receiving $50 million from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. In the announcement, BuzzFeed said it would launch international editions in India, Germany, Mexico and Japan.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.


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