What do you get when you mix the New York Times with a site best known for viral cat videos? We’ll soon find out as the Grey Lady announced today that it will be working with BuzzFeed to provide video from this summer’s political conventions.
For the unfamiliar, BuzzFeed is the brain child of technology and marketing whiz Jonah Peretti, who delights in churning out stories with pretty pictures for the “bored at work” crowd. The site’s bread and butter is stuff like “37 Items the Kardashians have slapped their name on” and “Flock of Angry Kittens gets a Bath” that are intended to generate a maximum amount of Twitter and Facebook hoopla. BuzzFeed recently launched a politics vertical that offers items like “Eight Images from Mitt Romney’s business career” and “A Very Sad Picture of Newt Gingrich.”
So why is the ever-serious New York Times getting mixed up with this potpourri of pop culture reporting? The move is actually a shrewd one.
First, BuzzFeed recently hired Politico’s Ben Smith to lead up its politics vertical. Smith is one of the very best political reporters of his generation and he made his name in the online environment. His presence will give the NYT-Buzzfeed venture both gravitas and tactical guidance (in addition to the silly stuff, BuzzFeed’s political coverage has also included insightful coverage of health care, immigration and more). The new web video presence will also complement the Times fledgling online show TimesCast Politics.
Second, the New York Times stands to learn of a ton of new social media tricks. Unlike traditional news outlets, BuzzFeed is all about turbo-charging stories for social channels, an approach that recognizes that social is increasingly driving online news consumption. This means that the Times has an opportunity here not only to increase the visibility of its convention coverage but also to develop tools it can employ in other areas of its reporting. The Times could, for instance, be in a position to bring a BuzzFeed-like touch to its MOMA reviews or its World Series coverage.
Finally, a bit of BuzzFeed brashness will be a welcome addition to often dull convention coverage. The gatherings that once provided high political drama are now little more than tedious tub-thumping pageants — maybe more viral video will change that.
“We think BuzzFeed’s energy and keen ear for how political stories play out in the social sphere will be a valuable and interesting contribution to The Times’s video presence,” said Jim Roberts, assistant managing editor of The New York Times in a press release.
[Image by Muriel via Shutterstock]