Is the BuzzFeed/CNN YouTube Channel a Win for CNN, or a Loss for BuzzFeed?


When BuzzFeed hired away Politico superstar journalist Ben Smith to serve as ‘editor-in-chief’ in February, even the New York Times had to step down from its perch and analyze the marriage of political and meme-journalism. When BuzzFeed launched its ‘business’ section in March, there was a little less flabbergast from around the world of capital-J Journalism…but just a little bit.

Now, BuzzFeed is partnering with CNN to invest “a low eight-digit sum” over two years in a YouTube channel, curating archival and current content “designed to be shared over social media networks,” according to TechCrunch.

BuzzFeed currently has six YouTube channels under its management, and CEO Jonah Peretti says the CNN partnership will scale up the venture into “a bonafide media company: socially native, tech enabled, with massive scale.” The new YouTube channel will produce about three videos a week, and will use the ‘mashup-video’ format popularized with such BuzzFeed originals as “Proof That Cats are Better Than Dogs,”  and “15 Things We Can All Agree On.”

Leading the new section will be Peter Lauria, who was previously editor-in-charge of U.S. technology, media and telecom coverage at Reuters, according to TechCrunch. Editor-in-chief Smith says that he wants Lauria to “bring some of the DNA of a great tabloid business section” to BuzzFeed.

Well, at least they admit they’re a tabloid. And a damn good tabloid, at that! Recent well-read feature stories on the site include an examination of the role Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries’ boyfriend plays in company decisions, and “Secrets from the Sexist Pitchbook of One of Wall Street’s More Notorious Firms.”

CNN has been publicly exonerated as of late for its clumsy, inaccurate reporting on the Boston Marathon Bombing; Jon Stewart dubbed the organization the “Human Centipede of News.”  So at this point, ‘the most trusted name in news’ needs a bit of brand burnishing, and BuzzFeed’s fairly stellar reputation — they haven’t been around long enough to make many mistakes — could certainly be just the trick. What I’m interested in seeing is which publication’s “voice” has more of an influence on the final product. By all accounts, the videos will essentially be topical news features with a BuzzFeed sensibility…so will that mean finding viral personalities and having them report the news? Having french bulldogs bounce across the screen while Anderson Cooper giggles?