Updated 1:50 pm ET, Monday, March 5
BuzzFeed, a six-year-old social news website that’s built a brand out of its image-heavy, chat-like, hyperactive coverage of all things viral or bound-to-be viral, on late Sunday launched a new dedicated tech blog.
Called “FWD,” (pronounced “Forward” or however you want it, according to its editor Matt Buchanan), the new blog takes the familiar BuzzFeed layout — a chronological list of curated content and links to other stories, accompanied by bright yellow circles with readers’ predominant reactions: “Win,” “Fail,” “Omg,” “Geeky,” and “WTF,” among others — and populates it entirely with stories loosely revolving around technology.
Although the way FWD characterizes what constitutes technology may be different than the industry standard.
“Technology is no longer a discrete category, or some thing that occasionally and clumsily intersects with culture,” wrote Buchanan in FWD’s inaugural blog post. “It’s reshaping culture. Creating culture. It is culture. It’s wonderful. Mostly. We think? It’s also consistently absurd and hilarious.”
“One of the main things I want to do is break brilliant, new, unconventional voices writing about technology that haven’t been heard before,” Buchanan further elaborated in an email to TPM.
Buchanan said that for now, the new blog will be run by himself and deputy editor John Herrman, both former writers at Gawker Media’s spunky tech blog Gizmodo. But he added that there were plans to expand the staff.
“Frankly, there isn’t better experience than working at and helping to run a Gawker Media site,” Buchanan told TPM.
Now Buchanan and Herrman are attempting to channel that experience — of breaking and playing up gadget scoops and other strange tech ephemera — into BuzzFeed’s even more fast-paced posting schedule (25 items* in the first 24 hours since going live, as The Atlantic’s tech editor Alexis Madrigal marveled on Twitter).
BuzzFeed has attained a new cache among more of the “old guard” journalists lately, ever since the website — which for most of its lifetime was essentially a brightly-colored, youthful, overcaffeinated news aggregator — betrayed more traditional journalistic aspirations: Chief among them, original content creation.
In December 2011, one new hire in particular made headlines in The New York Times : Politico’s Ben Smith, who left the Beltway must-read blog on polite but somewhat onerous terms to become BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, where he promised more original content would follow.
A month after Smith was hired, in January 2012, the website hired Doree Shafrir , senior editor of Rolling Stone online, to lead the website’s cultural coverage. BuzzFeed in February added another famed Rolling Stone alum to its masthead, poaching Michael Hastings, the author of the famed expose that brought down General Stanley McCrystal.
Clearly, BuzzFeed, a New York City-based website which began its life as a side-project of The Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti, is aiming to do more than just ride the waves of online traffic from photos of cute animals. And FWD is BuzzFeed’s latest effort in a new direction.
“We’ll do some light reblogging/commentary on existing stuff, of course,” Buchanan told TPM. “But the backbone, as I see it, is going to be original stuff. Look for more and more reporting as we ramp up. And I’m always looking for contributors with brilliant and awesome things to say—I’d like to get to a point where you regularly see tons of different voices on the site, in the same way that you see at the Awl or the Hairpin, which are two of my very favorite websites. “
Still, Buchanan said he envisioned FWD being “quieter” than the rest of BuzzFeed, and still maintained that there would be “puppies. Lots of puppies. Not very many puppies on most tech sites!”
That should help differentiate it from other new tech blogs coming out this week.
*Update: Buchanan explains that half of the first 25 stories posted in FWD’s first day are older Buzzfeed posts that have been re-categorized under the dedicated tech section.