Earlier this month, a couple of inventive young go-getters at BuzzFeed tied enough rubber bands around the center of a watermelon to make it explode. Nearly a million people watched the giant berry burst on Facebook Live. It racked up more than 10 million views in the days that followed.
Traditional journalists everywhere saw themselves as the seeds, flying out of the frame. How do we compete with that? And if that’s the future of news and information, what’s next for our democracy? President Kardashian?
They're all a bit thinner now, and before the internet there was no such thing as clickbait (well, tabloid headlines were close), but once upon a time newspapers had this thing called "the news." They also had the funny pages, the crosswords, the advice column, a gossip column, and news about the Kardashians of yore. They had real estate and auto sections, which were basically advertorial. They had entertainment listings and reviews. I'm not saying any or all of them were bad, but they were the equivalent of the exploding watermelon of the time. They gave people some dessert with their vegetables. Buzzfeed does all kinds of things to draw eyeballs to their site, and those eyeballs fund the "serious" news. Whether they're good at that I'll leave for others to judge, but the exploding watermelon isn't news. It is entertainment.
It is true that legacy news orgs never figured out that dessert on the internet would be different than dessert in print, but the news section is the news section and either it's decent or it isn't, no matter how videos of things blowing up are run on the site.