May 19, 2014

“And can’t we just dismiss the BuzzFeeds of the world, with their listicles and cat videos?”The New York Times’ Innovation report

BuzzFeed’s animals section covers dogs, squirrels, owls, even llamas, but its coverage of cats gets prominent mention in almost any reference to the publication, especially its news operations. A quick tour:

  • “Founded in 2006, BuzzFeed is known for its lists of cute cats and other shareable content, and more recently, for its foray into news.” — Jennifer Saba, Reuters, May 2014
  • “BuzzFeed, the scourge of traditionalists better known for cats, LOLs and ‘listicles’, is continuing to expand its serious side with the appointment of Paul Hamilos as foreign news editor, based in London.” — Alastair Reid,, April 2014
  • “In December 2011, he announced that he was leaving Politico, the insiderly political site at which he had been a star blogger since 2007, to take the top editorial job at BuzzFeed, a site better known for cat GIFs and dorky ‘listicles’ (articles in list form, like ’33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed in You’) than political muckraking.” — Douglas Quenqua, The New York Times, February 2013
  • “In December 2011, when Ben Smith, the high-octane reporter and blogger for Politico, jumped ship to become the editor of BuzzFeed, a site then better known for viral slideshows and cat videos, many in the world of political journalism wondered if Smith had lost his mind.” — Uri Friedman, Foreign Policy, June 2013

BuzzFeed has published 22,500 pieces of content “about or including cats” since it was founded in 2006, BuzzFeed Vice President for Business Development & Communications Ashley McCollum said in an email to Poynter. Since 2012, it’s published about 12,200 pieces of cat-related content. McCollum didn’t immediately provide a count of cat videos alone, or the total number of articles BuzzFeed has published to date.

My cat, who has never appeared on BuzzFeed.

By contrast, it has published 11,700 posts about politics in its history and 7,900 since 2012, McCollum said. “That number doesn’t count all the breaking news, business, longform, investigative, tech stories either,” she wrote, adding: “We love the cats! The internet has always loved cats and we will probably always love cats. It’s just one of those cliches that’s super sticky, but doesn’t necessarily represent the breadth of our coverage.”

Reached by email, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said: “We have certainly maintained — and expanded — our commitment to great, cat-led entertainment, even as we’ve invested heavily in journalism. These things aren’t in conflict: Most humans love animals; and also want to know what’s going on in the world.” Smith said he’d “anticipate more of both” cat and non-cat stuff in the future.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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