I’m not a huge fan of Buzzfeed and they way its content is presented. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate some of the techniques its blog posts use.
How I discovered Buzzfeed and my initial anger towards it
I suspect like many, I first discovered Buzzfeed and its distinct style of presenting blog posts through my social media newsfeeds. I’d see friends sharing blog posts with titles like ’24 things that suck about being in your 20s’ and ‘18 signs that it’s sometime after Christmas’.
My friends often captioned these with comments like ‘Number four is so true!’ The exclamation mark was to show extra enthusiasm and relatability.
I felt angry whenever I saw blog posts with these sorts of titles getting shared.
I thought people were using mundane facts to justify their own laziness – ‘12 reasons why you don’t want to do the housework’ and titles like that made regular appearances on my newsfeed – and the writers at Buzzfeed were distorting the boundaries between relatability and cliché to pander to readers and get more clicks.
I also took a disliking to the way Buzzfeed-style blog posts were presented. They used big images instead of text to express a point, and to me this screamed laziness on the writer’s part.
The images were always preceded by a small amount of bold sub-headline text, which was being used to get the reader’s attention and encourage them to keep reading. This is quite conventional.
What wasn’t conventional was the image following the text, and the fact it was being used to elaborate on the point raised in the sub-headline instead of actual words. This made the sub-headline seem pointless.
Everything I’ve written so far seems scathing. That’s about to change.
Lots of writers will have been told about the ‘show don’t tell’ ethos, and looking at Buzzfeed-style blog posts with this in mind is what gets me to stop and think.
The images that are used have to visualise the point being made in the sub-headlines. Finding the right images to do this takes good research skills and careful consideration.
This is even more true when so many of the images used are characters and screengrabs from popular film, music and tv series taken out of context and applied to the situations being explored in the blog post. This shows the writer understands their audience.
It’s still not for me
I guess on the whole, I dislike the premise and some presentation characteristics of Buzzfeed-style blog posts. They celebrate mundanity and exploit relatability, and using images instead of text seems lazy.
But these images are proof of how ‘show don’t tell’ can be an effective way of making a point, and finding them takes good research skills and audience awareness. So I appreciate them somewhat. But they aren’t entirely for me.