if u think the internet is mean now let me tell you about 2008
— Jessica Roy (@JessicaKRoy) April 23, 2015
Gawker published a transcript of the entire interview J.K. Trotter (labeled “Keenan” so you know he’s serious and not JK) did with Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith and Jonah Peretti. There are some solid burns:
Ben: This is a really complicated industry.
Keenan: It’s not that complicated.
And Smith and Peretti don’t seem to have prepared for the interview or taken it seriously at all:
Keenan: Who was involved in that decision?
Ben: You know, I don’t actually know. I was involved in that decision. I didn’t need a big push. But I do think creative was quite upset about it. I don’t know who—I saw your whole list of names, I don’t know.
Keenan: OK, I mean—
Jonah: Ben makes all of the editorial decisions.
Keenan: Right, but under pressure from the business side, though.
Ben: I get pressure every day from lots of different people.
It goes on and on so I’m going to summarize: Ben Smith was responsible for deleting posts, due to Buzzfeed Creative (i.e. advertising) creating the ads that were in part the subject of the posts. For example, Samir Mezrahi recommended you unfollow Pepsi’s Twitter account during the Superbowl, when (and this part was very surprising to me, but apparently I’m kind of naive?) Pepsi’s Twitter was being directly operated by Buzzfeed Creative. And here is the root of the difficulty Smith and Peretti have explaining their editorial policies. What they’re struggling to say is: if you’re the journalism wing of an ad agency, it looks bad when you write about your own ads, whether positively or negatively. But they can’t quite say that, because they have to pretend Buzzfeed isn’t, functionally, an ad agency that produces editorial content to draw an audience for the ads they make their money creating. So a lot of their answers don’t hold together very well, because they have to talk around and obscure this basic fact.
Keenan: Can I ask why you’re smoking TWO huge blunts
— the beverage hunk (@pareene) April 22, 2015
Hamilton Nolan posted a comment that I think captures why a lot of people are still struggling to care about all of this:
Buzzfeed does some good stories. But as a “news organization,” Buzzfeed is a fucking joke.
That’s true, but it’s also the most positive thing I can imagine any normal person saying about Buzzfeed at this moment in its history. To build a public perception that they do “some good stories” would be a pretty big step up in the world’s esteem. And the reason that Buzzfeed struggles to overcome its “shitty cat gif listicles on Facebook” reputation is that as a news organization, Buzzfeed can’t really be taken seriously, and the unsophisticated readers out there on the internet have no trouble sensing this, even while it goes bafflingly unnoticed in Manhattan. Buzzfeed is a hell of an ad shop—probably the best there has ever been. And a ton of great journalists work there and do the great work they are so capable of doing, because good journalists will do good work wherever they are. But “Buzzfeed” the brand will continue to have credibility problems until it is no longer an ad agency with a content arm, or until it learns how to act like a grown-up news organization which can report on itself and issue disclaimers when necessary. But Smith and Peretti don’t really appear to grasp that yet, or care. And should they care? I honestly don’t know.
In conclusion: I wonder how closely Vox and VICE are watching this, and I wish we still had David Carr around to write about it.
Cat on a Hot Take Roof
— Rachel Syme (@rachsyme) April 22, 2015
Wow! That was boring! Luckily Taffy Brodesser-Akner is back, this time bringing us the Air Sex World Championships. I so badly want to quote the whole thing, but here: “I’d seen a man hump a stage like he was in a Bell Biv DeVoe video, slow and smoky, all push-ups and ab work. I’d seen a man have sex with an alien. And a dinosaur. And a robot. And fruit. Not all the same man.”
Grendan has a huge feature on The Verge about Rube Goldberg machines. It’s great and you’ve got the whole weekend to read it, truly you live in the best of all possible worlds.
McDonald’s announces sinister Phase Two, as pioneered by Starbucks. Today in Tabs is evolutionarily adaptive so if you’re reading this, make sure you breed as soon as possible. The Army is testing ray guns to shoot at robots so the future’s shaping up pretty much the way we expected. Defaced subway posters IRL.
Call me old fashioned but I’d love to marry for political reasons in order to stabilize the political climate of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
— Logan (@PlagueLovers) April 8, 2015
Xeni Jardin went in on “natural wellness” promoter and liar Belle Gibson, who lied about having cancer, lied about how she “cured” her “cancer,” and harmed people who actually have cancer. A useful rule of thumb that’s never failed me: if someone mentions avoiding gluten and doesn’t follow that immediately with “…because of my celiac disease,” you can ignore them.
And then there was Rembert Browne with this blog post that I assume is about the Twitter clique epiphenomena being generated by the Gawker / Buzzfeed skirmish: “It doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this. The same person should be allowed to critique, get critiqued, excel, and make mistakes.” I’d like to quickly and loudly proclaim myself on Rembert’s side in this, and vociferously denounce anyone who isn’t.
I would never vociferously denounce intern Avery Edison, though. Certainly not where she could hear it. Reminder: May intern applications are open, see yesterday’s Tabs for deets.
Wow it’s like having Ta-Nehisi Coates and Abe Riesman for interns.
Happy Tabs Friday! Nothing else will happen on the internet until Monday so kick back and have a tall frosty drink with your power group chats and exclusive email chains!
Today’s Song: B. Dolan, “Alright”
~It is the tab to every wandering bark / Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.~
Today in Tabs will not rest until I burn every last drop of goodwill. I’m like the Dick Cheney of media business credibility. Until then, read us on Fast Company or subscribe by email. Follow @rustyk5 for retweets and cool party invites.