Summary:

Viral news site BuzzFeed has selected one-time Spin editor Steve Kandell to oversee its plans to expand its selection of New Yorker-style longform pieces. The move promises more prestige for BuzzFeed but it’s too soon to say if it makes good business sense.

BuzzFeed, the upstart viral news site, has finally selected an editor to oversee its ambitions to produce “high-quality narrative journalism for the social web”. The choice is Steve Kandell, a former editor-in-chief of Spin magazine who also worked as an editor at Maxim and Blend.

Kandell’s appointment comes as BuzzFeed, best known for cute kitten collages, is ramping up its ambitions to be a force for serious journalism. To that end, it has created partnerships with the New York Times and and brought on high-profile hires like Doree Shafrir from Rolling Stone as executive editor and Ben Smith from Politico.

BuzzFeed has already shown its longform aspirations with 10,000-word essays on topics like the military, Mitt Romney’s father and “Can You Die from a Nightmare?”. Kandell will work with in-house and freelance writers to expand those offerings and, in his words, show that “conversation-provoking longform journalism and profiles that have long been a staple of magazines are as vital as they’ve ever been”.

The site’s longform goals are intriguing because the genre is associated with prestigious print magazines like the New Yorker and not the viral, hyper-active fare that makes up a typical BuzzFeed page (see typical BuzzFeed cat image at right). Will the site be able to overcome the belief of many writers and readers that the best longform originates in print?

There is also the question of whether longform journalism is economically viable for BuzzFeed, or if the project is instead a labor of love. We’re hoping it will be both in the long term but, for now, it will be interesting to see how the “native advertisers” that are BuzzFeed’s bread and butter respond to the site’s larger literary ambitions.

To learn more about BuzzFeed’s longform plans, see “Kings of longform: New Yorker, the Atlantic … and BuzzFeed?”

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