Buzzfeed seems to engender pretty strong feelings all around.  Mostly the criticism was from the right during the election, but I’m seeing grumbling from the left lately as well.

I cautioned last February not to underestimate BuzzFeed Politics, which is an emerging force in news and uses cats to maximum effect.  Despite my tongue-in-cheek post, 5 Signs BuzzFeed May Have Peaked, I’m not really seeing the engine slowing down.  They have a lot of dollars, very talented staff, and they have me pegged.

One thing that has caught my eye recently was that Buzzfeed lured in conservative readers through its Community section.  Yes, conservative readers.

It must be some kind of Sun Tzu military theory: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

(Buzzfeed: Some of our best friends are Conservative)

I first noticed that when two of the best listicles I’ve seen from the conservative side showed up at Buzzfeed.

The first, 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Life Before Birth by National Right to Life on August 27, was highlighted here National Right to Life hits home run where it counts, Buzzfeed:

Buzzfeed National Right to Life 16 Things screen shot

National Right to Life as well as Students4Life each have several other highly effective pro-life listicles at Buzzfeed Community.  I particularly like Students4Life’s Top 9 Memes that Expose #BroChoice for What it Really Is:

Buzzfeed Students4Life Bro Choice 8

The second was by John Ekdahl, who writes at Ace of Spades HQ, 14 Principled Anti-War Celebrities We Fear May Have Been Kidnapped.  The Ekdahl post has over 800,000 views at Buzzfeed.  While not billed as “conservative,” it relentlessly mocked liberal Hollywood and music celebrities, and was shared far and wide outside Buzzfeed.

Buzzfeed - 14 Anti War Celebs Missing

So what’s up with this conservative stuff at Buzzfeed?

The first thing you need to understand is that we cannot take over Buzzfeed.

The Community section essentially is a blog platform that anyone can use (subject to normal restrictions, like no porn) to create hopefully viral listicles.  In fact, Buzzfeed has a tutorial telling you how to increase the chances of a viral post.  Those user-created listicles can be linked on Facebook and at your own blogs.

But Buzzfeed decides which Community posts get promoted to appear on the Buzzfeed website.

The Ekdahl post was promoted, and I think the Right to Life one was as well (I couldn’t verify that going back to August).

I haven’t tried to quantify how many “conservative” posts get promoted versus “liberal” posts, but I can say that the overwhelming number of Community posts that are promoted have nothing to do with politics.  Of course, there’s no reason for liberal readers to create liberal listicles at Buzzfeed Community, Buzzfeed staff does that.

This really is a brilliant concept.  Get people to create posts, and pick and choose which to promote.  It’s free content for Buzzfeed, without the downside of junky stuff showing up on the website.

In the case of conservative listicles, it also draws in conservative readers who might otherwise not visit Buzzfeed.  And it makes it harder to criticize Buzzfeed when conservative posts go viral there.  (Of course, it would be great if the staff-created offerings were more varied.)

I should note that very recently Buzzfeed has started adding disclaimers to User profiles, essentially stating that the entry is user contributed.

Here’s how the National Right to Life entry appeared originally and how it appears now:

BuzzFeed Right to Life Cache

BuzzFeed Right to Life Current

I emailed Ben Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed about this, and he stated that this was being applied across the board, not just to “conservative” users or posts.  He pointed me to a similar change with Planned Parenthood:

Buzzfeed Planned Parenthood

This is part of a Buzzfeed struggle to figure out how “open” it wants to be in its Community section:

As much as conservative-oriented websites try, it’s hard to beat the Buzzfeed template — they know listicles.

Time will tell whether Buzzfeed Community develops into a place where conservatives have a presence, or whether “All war is deception.”