Ahh BuzzFeed, everyone’s favorite time-wasting site. It’s full of funny gifs of cats and dogs, as well as lists about oddly specific topics that can be fun and interesting if they apply to you. This listicle formula is quickly being adopted and copied throughout the Internet kingdom, by sites like the Huffington Post, Mashable, Upworthy, Hitfix, and others.
Why are these sites starting to look like BuzzFeed? What does it say about the media and our culture as a whole that our preferred method of being entertained and informed is in bite-sized, stunted lists? The reason these other sites are taking their cues from BuzzFeed is simple: it’s effective, entertaining, shallow, and it drives traffic – not to mention it’s easy and efficient to do. Here are how the top BuzzFeedified offenders copy and differ from one another.
Huff Po mimics BuzzFeed in that it’s picture heavy and uses simplistic headlines. However it strays away from heavy gif usage and funny subheadings. It’s a bit like BuzzFeed’s less funny, older duller sister, trying to be more interesting with more domesticated topics and with a much less emphasis on being funny at all.
For example, this list, 10 Couples Who Need Their Facebook Privileges Revoked, was featured on Huff Post Divorce. I could maybe see it on Huff Post Funny, but not in the Divorce section.
Mashable keeps in-step with BuzzFeed’s simplistic yet attention grabbing headlines. However, it’s more current events driven and has fewer lists, fewer gifs, and a bit more actual copy in it. It’s sort of like BuzzFeed’s better informed, less funny brother. However, BuzzFeed has been trying to break more into the news arena, kind of where Mashable is already.
Meet BuzzFeed’s hipster brother. The similarities to BuzzFeed are obvious with the big pictures and attention grabbing headlines. Use of these headlines has been on the rise in the past year, with more websites relying on clickbait to increase page views and social shares.
As you can see, the headlines are just vague enough that you want to click and learn the who, what, and why behind the story.
HitFix is basically BuzzFeed with a hard Hollywood/entertainment angle. To keep up with my family member metaphors, he’s that annoying movie/TV critic friend/acquaintance that quotes every movie all the time. HitFix relies less on lists of things and gifs, but more on short news blips and videos.
More and more of the news, opinion, and entertainment outlets that more people every day are consuming are being put into the funnel that leads to the “BuzzFeedificator” machine. This machine turns what we used to read as news into short, dumbed down, digestible, and visual pieces.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of old school, classic ways of consuming news (various newspapers and magazines, both print and online); however, raising a generation of kids who are accustomed to receiving information in this way might lead respected names like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times to create meme-laden listicles. We already see this on TV, as a lot of news programs have already started making stories no longer than 20 seconds to a minute long, and awkwardly mixing serious news with animal puff pieces and the like.
Give it 10-15 years, and for better or for worse, we very well may be living a world where our news and media as a whole looks a lot like BuzzFeed.