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Ben Smith, Buzzfeed and the Changing Landscape of Political Media

In this morning's NY Times

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Maybe he’s joking. But Mr. Smith, polite and mild-mannered as he is, has been known to shock people before. In December 2011, he announced that he was leaving Politico, the insiderly political site at which he had been a star blogger since 2007, to take the top editorial job at Buzzfeed, a site better known for cat GIFs and dorky “listicles” (articles in list form, like “33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed in You”) than political muckraking.

“It just wasn’t a place for a political reporter to go,” said Josh Benson, a founder of Capital New York, a news site founded by some of Mr. Smith’s former colleagues from The New York Observer.

“But there’s an ‘on the other hand,’ ” Mr. Benson said, “which is that it didn’t surprise me one bit. He’s got that entrepreneurial thing. He’s not content to make the doughnuts.”

Mr. Smith, 36, has long had a reputation for doing things his own way. Before Buzzfeed, he was known for pulling city politics into the digital era with The Politicker, a blog he started for The Observer in 2004. While other print reporters were waiting for deadlines to share the news, Mr. Smith had the then-novel idea of publishing what he knew on the Web and letting readers leave comments, producing a lively and often indecorous forum that transfixed Gotham’s power brokers.

“It’s not just that he did it first, he did it well,” Mr. Benson said.

It’s that forward-thinking mentality that helps add some clarity to the Smith-Buzzfeed marriage. Buzzfeed, which was started in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, a founder of The Huffington Post, operates on the philosophy that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are America’s new front pages and that the content people view online is determined more by what their friends share than what is found on the home page of a news organization. As such, the distinction between Web ephemera like baby videos and traditional journalism has all but disappeared.

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Full article at the NY Times. Very interesting to me.



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