Chad White, On a mission to civilize, Long live Skip Reming
The nature of reading news has changed over the course of hundreds of years. Before, people relied on word of mouth. Then a rudimentary form of writing took the stage for a while. After the advent of writing, devices like radios and TVs took precedence. While these things changed, the newspaper stayed relatively the same. But now the paper is being phased out in favor of quick smart device reading. Not many people want to sit and physically hold dozens of sheets of paper offering up yesterday’s news. Even the New York Times and Washington Post are changing the way they operate due to high interest in online reading versus the decline in physical paper buying.
Sites like Cracked and Gawker have crept in to take on “news reporting” leaving other, better suited companies in the dust. These sites boil down to a few things: lists, gifs, and short, punchy writing. It’s hard for another publication to come about when today’s readers are so busy and require news in short. Buzzfeed is a prime example of too simplistic writing that seems to have taken over the internet. Each article, if you can call them that, take the same form with one or two short introduction paragraphs and a specified number of listed items (as told by the title of the article) with their own short descriptors followed by a gif or meme of some sort. And since I know none of you actually reads the intro paragraph, I can pretty much write anything here. Penis.
1. Easy Breezy Beautiful Reading
This one is deceptively simple. Like I wrote before, everything has to be short. Sentences, words, headers. Everything. Formatting is a big part of how they operate. Sentences don’t look to be very complex. Independent thoughts are kept to strict guidelines. The goal is to make it as accessible as possible. Italicizing, bolding, and underlining play a big part as well. I could go further but, you know, short and punchy is the goal.
2. Buzzwords (Because Fuck You)
You read this part because you saw the word “fuck” and it instantly grabbed your attention. Congratulations, you were tricked by a buzzword! No, Buzzfeed didn’t create that phrase either. Buzzwords have been around since the advent of news reporting. Writers need a way to grab your attention after all. Remember in school when teachers would say your paper needs an attention grabber? Buzzword. Synergy? Buzzword. Dynamic? Buzzword. It goes both ways though. “Think outside of the box” is known as a buzzword phrase. You might recognize "This Adorable X Will Make You X" or this article's "You Won't Believe X!"
3. (Moving) Images
Pictures and gifs are big parts of the internet now with memes appearing everywhere from your Mom’s Facebook to Shaq’s Twitter and even escaping to the real world. And now, here is one of those things.
4. Nostalgia (The Useless One)
Face it, there is nothing important in a list article and there never will be. “10 Reasons Why You Hated Power Rangers” will never play a big role in your life. “13 Feelings We Feel During The Opening To UP” is quite possibly the most useless article you’ll read. So why waste time on these things? It doesn’t matter. I’m surprised you even made it this far. Once you’re near the end of the list, your eyes are glazing over or you’ve scrolled past it. The second to last thing is only read after the final item is read. Then the reader scrolls back upwards to see what they missed.
5. Lol (lol)
Have you ever, legitimately laughed at this type of article? Here we are, at the last part and yet nothing matters. Sure, you were reminded of that old 90’s shows starring Howie Mandel as an imaginative little boy who got into trouble or the Nickelodeon show featuring talking action figures and a girl with the last name Anaconda but has your life really changed?* Does any of this matter?
I’ve bashed Buzzfeed a lot today. But I’m not going to say I hate them. The company is doing what it can to thrive and that’s really all anyone can ask for. While the site may not be for me, people really seem to enjoy it. Their articles are spread over the internet at a rate I wish I could achieve. Again, don’t treat them as the only place to read or a singular news site because they’re not. The same goes for Fox News and CNN; they can’t be your only avenues of learning about the world. Be sure to switch things up when it comes to news or reading in general. That’s how you really learn.
*(The shows are called Bobby’s World and KaBlam. You’re welcome.)*