BuzzFeed has become popular via incoherent articles, vapid lists and heaps and heaps of cat gifs. It is the very definition of clickbait. The site’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, doesn’t see it that way. Smith says that BuzzFeed doesn’t do clickbait. Take a moment to soak that in.
The best part of Smith’s article isn’t that he had the nerve to even write such a piece, but that he tried to define clickbait articles in a way that excluded the site. According to Smith, clickbait articles are those with so-called “curiosity gap” headlines. You know the type: “This girl thought she lost her dog. You won’t believe what happens next.”
This is true. That is one type of clickbait. And that’s why Smith uses it as the prime example — so he can position BuzzFeed as “above” that type of thing:
Great headlines, meanwhile, tell you a lot about what you’re going to read, and persuade you to click because you know you’ll find a story that will satisfy your interest. The lists that BuzzFeed has long been known for are, as list titles tend to be, extremely direct; ’31 Genius Hacks For Your Elementary School Art Class’ is just that.
What Smith hilariously ignores is that this headline is also clickbait. There are “genius” hacks available to you, all you have to do is click! Then of course, once the reader clicks, they are treated to 31 items that stretch the definition of “genius” to its limits.
If Smith was honest, he’d admit that clickbait can be many things and BuzzFeed indulges in all of them. All the time. The mere fact that Smith felt the need to compose an article saying “We don’t do clickbait” is because that’s all BuzzFeed does. Smith knows it; everyone knows it. Shit is always shit. It still stinks even if you want to call it something else.