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Ah BuzzFeed, the land of Mean Girls reaction gifs and curated news stories from around the globe. How would we know about smog in China or if we belong at Florida State without you?
The creators of this glorious vortex of content are diving deeper into the world of information and leading the way in breaking news. Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Schoofs has officially joined the BuzzFeed team to lead their new investigative reporting unit.
No, he will not be investigating whether kittens or guinea pigs are cuter in costume. He’s leading a team of six reporters to expose the seedy underbelly of America.
BuzzFeed has seen rapid growth over the past two years and will soon catch up with brands like The Huffington Post and CNN. It is currently at a point where the creators can decide exactly what they want BuzzFeed to become without losing any branding or feeling pushback from their audience.
BuzzFeed curates content from sources all across the world, raising awareness about problems from big names and local papers alike. People might go for the reaction gifs, but they’ll stay for the news stories. Because of its large and active following, BuzzFeed is able to start doing investigative reporting and cover more serious topics.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have seen positive results with a similar strategy on their Comedy Central shows. Viewers watch the programs for the humor but actually walk away with a better understanding of current events. (Yes, the quality and depth of their knowledge may leave something to be desired, but there’s no doubt that plenty of Americans cite Comedy Central as their main news source. Pew reports that 80% of viewers 18-49 watch the Colbert Report, compared to 67% that read the New York Times.)
What started as a couple of satirical news shows has turned into a national movement. Colbert and Stewart attracted more than 60,000 fans to their Rally to Restore Fear/Sanity in 2010, showcasing just how engaged their audience is. Fans came from as far as Oregon to attend! Very few people have an audience that would travel across the country for them.
Stewart’s interviews have taken a more serious turn over the years. While he still jokes around with musicians and actors, he also invites leaders of global organizations and has debates with politicians. More often than not his call to action at the end of an interview is “Go to ComedyCentral.com to see the rest of it” because he knows he can’t go as in-depth as he would like in 5-10 minutes. Stewart and Colbert have built an audience based around humor but still challenge viewers to be more aware of the world.
If you’re still not convinced about the sheer potential of BuzzFeed to use its platform for a deeper cause, look at Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Bill Nye’s show ended in 1998, but he has seen massive popularity over the past few years and even went on Dancing With The Stars last season. This is because the kids he taught space exploration and fossils to in the 90s are in college now and entering the workforce. His fans are still loyal, and now they’re able to vote and fight for his cause. Bill Nye has been able to shift his message to talk about the science behind global warming to further legislation and raise awareness about our depleting resources. It may have taken 10-15 years, but he’s been able to use his platform for the benefit of the environment.
BuzzFeed has the potential to make something awesome with their latest steps towards becoming a news hub. Good luck Mark Schoofs and welcome to the team!