BuzzFeed and journalism in the digital age

The traditional concept of journalism conjures up images of printing presses, articles filled with text and reporters going out into the world to find stories.

The traditional concept of journalism conjures up images of printing presses, articles filled with text and reporters going out into the world to find stories. With the Internet, however, sites like BuzzFeed have emerged that by no means follow this traditional sentiment.

In publishing articles created by assembling memes, GIFs and YouTube embeds, what role does BuzzFeed play in today’s media?

Not a traditional news web site

When one thinks of the news in relation to the Internet, sites like BBC News or The Guardian come to mind. Acting as online versions of the media corporations, the sites provide twenty-four seven access to a wealth of news and updates from across the globe. The majority rely upon text to convey information, conforming to print standards of journalism, with accompanying images used to provide a brief snapshot of an event. Whilst it is true that the BBC features footage from its broadcasts in some of its articles, the majority of its content is text based as opposed to digital content.

BuzzFeed is by no means your traditional news website because it represents a curious balance between news and blogging. On the one hand, it details current affairs to its audience, reporting on news stories from around the world much like a traditional news outlet.

However, the blogging element comes to the fore through its use of lists and digital content, which staff and Internet users can submit. These lists usually consist of a small amount of text, featuring images, GIFs and screenshots as the focal point of the page. It is this mix of current affairs and non-newsworthy lists that differentiates BuzzFeed from other media outlets, its deference towards digital, viral content and social media.

A style that takes advantage of new media

What does this say about its relation to conventional journalism? Well, it certainly points towards a style of journalism that takes advantage of new media and the digital world. One could hardly imagine The Times investing in an Internet platform that utilises GIFs. The Internet has provided new means of conveying information to millions of people across the world.

In providing a platform for users to share digital content, it has opened up new types of news websites. The ability to share images as a means of telling a story, conveying an emotion or as an additional source of information is the very essence of BuzzFeed. Articles are no longer synonymous with large sections of text that dictate information to a reader.

In the world of new media, text is becoming secondary to digital content.

A pioneer of new media

BuzzFeed can therefore be seen almost as a pioneer of new media, utilising digital content for both serious and fun purposes. Indeed, social media is awash with users sharing images as a means of providing a reaction to a statement and university Facebook groups are inundated with memes. It by no means presents itself as a purely serious news outlet, rather it relishes in the ability to inform users and make them laugh.

As our lives become increasingly more dependent on the digital world, the Internet is set to take precedence over more traditional news outlets.

Whether you go to BuzzFeed for pictures of cats or for digital content driven current affairs, its reliance upon social media and digital content show that the Internet and digital age are changing the way we access and perceive the media. It remains to be seen, however, if BuzzFeed will become the standard, and not the exception.

What do you think about the role of BuzzFeed? What role does it have in digital journalism? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.