tip off

Saville’s Shout: BuzzFeed in Oz … liminal art … Fairfax innovates …

Everyone’s favourite purveyor of listicles, BuzzFeed, has launched an Australian site. But with competitors nipping at its heels, can BuzzFeed’s model survive? Plus other tidbits.

The eight ways BuzzFeed draws you in. 52 Wedding Dresses That Aren’t Strapless. 17 Kangaroos That Can Kick Your Butt. JK Rowling admits that Hermione and Harry Should Have Ended Up Together.If you heard these stories yesterday, no, you weren’t trapped in a lift with a Millennial. You were reading BuzzFeed.

The viral news site famous for its cat videos came into being in 2006 and launched an Australia arm last Friday. Its mixture of lists, viral videos and pop quizzes has earned it 130 million unique visitors per month — numbers “legacy” news sites (including Crikey) can only dream of.

Vice-president Scott Lamb said on Friday the company made money by creating sponsored content, or what BuzzFeed calls “native advertising”, and taking a fee for every time it is shared — overwhelmingly on social media, mainly Facebook.

Asked about its downmarket content — “proll feed”, as one insider described it — Lamb said the company was starting to hire journalists to write proper, long-form stories. Although I wrote “5 Examples of Putting Lipstick on a Pig” in my notebook, BuzzFeed will be forgiven if it can produce some decent, thought-provoking journalism.

Questioned about BuzzFeed’s business model, he said that it was in a “pretty good position, largely because of [our] first-mover advantage”. However, as the barriers to entry in this sector are so low, and the content so interchangeable (there is an unlimited number of free cat videos), the company has already attracted imitators. As well as pure-play news sites like Re/code, The Verge and Politico, there are several sites that combine original reporting and the aggregation of viral content, such as Gawker and The Huffington Post.

A recent article on Business Insider said that newer sites such as Upworthy, Distractify and Viral Nova are following the latest trend on the internet, which is the shift from one that is page-ranked (Google) to people-ranked (Facebook):

Also, content that is light on text and heavy on visuals is easier to consume on mobile devices. But there is one serious issue these sites will run into: they rely almost entirely on Facebook for traffic, and if their Facebook referrals go away, so do their readers and ultimately, their businesses.”

Facebook itself is undergoing a seismic change, as it has been abandoned by the youngsters (off to Tumbler and elsewhere) and taken up by their parents. As 60% of BuzzFeed’s readers are aged from 18-34, the site will either have to migrate to different social media or start creating funny videos about gout. The cats can stay.

Giving performance reviews an F. One of the most loathed aspects of work, apart from open-plan offices and the Kris Kringle, has to be the annual performance review. Pointless, painful and frequently manipulated, it is always high on the list of things that employees would like to abolish. If you would like to convince your boss on this, help is at hand. Give her an article published last week in The Atlantic magazine entitled “The Case Against Performance Reviews”.

Many reviews are affected by a “rater bias”, the article says. This reflects the fact that employers often hire people they expect to like, and they expect to like people who are similar to them. They also give higher approval ratings to people they’ve hired. Which means that if you are a different gender, race or personality type to the boss and you were hired by her predecessor, you are in a bit of trouble.

Meanwhile, in workplaces that have moved from conventional hierarchies to ones that value teamwork and collaboration, performance edicts from the top of the mountain are simply out of date. “They’re designed as though they’re Russia in the ‘60s,” says management adviser Marcus Buckingham.

2-4-6-8! Let’s all help and innovate! However, good news is at hand for the beleaguered staff at Fairfax Media, who now have a new key performance indicator against which to be measured. Chief executive Greg Hywood sent all employees an email on Friday headed “What Does Innovation Mean to Me?”.

Under a banner saying “mobile disrupt, a mobile innovation project”, the email tells staff that “innovation is the spark that can ignite new possibilities. It is effort that’s treasured in every creative business, especially Fairfax Media as we shape our place in a media environment of limitless potential.” Hywood goes on to tell the staff that it is everyone’s job, at every time, to “innovate”:

Innovation occurs when we speak up with our idea, be it big or small, and that idea is handled with the respect and attention any intellectual effort deserves. By rigorous thinking, collaboration, cooperation, trial and error, a good idea can become a great idea.”

Hywood tells staff they are proven generators of new ideas: “Innovation takes constant work. Let’s keep at it.” Has Fairfax been hiring expensive management consultants again? And has that ever, in the entire history of corporate Australia, led to lasting improvements in anything? Not in my lifetime.

At the threshold. The McLemoi Gallery in Sydney’s Chippendale has a fascinating new exhibition of paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works called Plundering the Verge.

Open Road

Created by artist Rhonda Dee, the collection is an extension of her investigation of the body in transformation. According to Dee:

The idea of crossing a ‘threshold’ is pivotal to the human psyche, creating movement between one state of consciousness and another. Boundaries, borders, thresholds, passages, are all constructs punctuating our experience of the world both personally and publicly.

Many of the works can be experienced as metaphorical or physical ‘gateways’, which harbor the potential to be experienced as poignant markers in an unpredictable future.”

The exhibition is on show till March 7.

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  • 1
    AR
    Posted Monday, 3 February 2014 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    The divine Hermoine with Harry?!? Surely not, she & the bloodnut were perfect! (Funnicello Complex, shorely?)

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