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BuzzFeed Bets on Business, Cat Power

Once only known as an entertaining way to pass the time online, BuzzFeed has been steadily making waves beyond the world of cat videos, gifs and trivial lists. In 2011, the site hired former POLITICO senior editor Ben Smith to serve as editor-in-chief, and threw itself into the ring of aggregator and content creators like The Huffington Post and Gawker. Now, its most recent changes are proving the site continues to stay on top of the latest trends in online publishing.

On May 22, BuzzFeed launched its anticipated business news section, serving as “a scoop-driven business vertical” newly-appointed business editor Peter Lauria told CNBC’s Squawk Box. Along with the typical BuzzFeed humor posts like “14 CEOs And Their Animal Doppelgängers,” the business section offers more involved featured articles such as “Exclusive: Abercrombie Execs Troubled By Involvement Of CEO’s Partner.” Lauria said that combination is what will guide more users to the site over other news outlets.

Along with the ability to rival the content of established news organizations, BuzzFeed is also focusing more on user-generated content. Earlier in the week, the site launched a new Community vertical, which serves as a separate space for users to submit and showcase their own work. While the site has partially relied on user-generated submissions since it began, BuzzFeed Community moderator Cates Holderness said the new vertical will highlight that content more than ever before.

“Creating a new vertical where user posts are highlighted for special consideration seemed like a natural step in BuzzFeed’s development,” she said. “Our community is an active, vibrant group of people well-versed in creating their own unique content, and we’re excited to have a Community vertical where users’ posts take the center stage.”

Included with the new platform is the extra incentive for users to gain “Cat Power” which BuzzFeed describes with this line: “As you know, the Internet is powered primarily by cats, so your Cat Power on BuzzFeed is an official measure of your rank in BuzzFeed’s Community.” Cat Power is gained when a user regularly submits posts which are approved by the site for publication. Submissions from users are vetted by Community moderators, and are edited for typos or attribution, but maintains the user’s voice, Holderness said.

“What’s great about our community is the sense of friendly competition between users,” she said. “When a user sees one of their posts do well—either through being featured on the Community vertical or making it to the front page of BuzzFeed—they get encouraged to do another one that will do equally as well.”

It’s not only individual users who are encouraged to submit content, but brands as well can get in on the game, according to Holderness.

“We have a few brands who have created their own accounts as Community contributors instead of paid partners, and we treat them the same way we treat our individual users,” she said. “Is the post creative? Shareable? Properly sourced? Not spammy? If it’s an original, entertaining post, we’d feature it just the same as any normal user’s post.”

Holderness said the future of online publishing is definitely affecting the way content in general is looked at.

“The Internet has really changed the way news and publishing work, for better or for worse,” she said. “User-generated content, when featured on major sites, has the ability to break news and contribute to larger dialogues. Personally, I think user-generated content and citizen journalism will always be an important source of news and entertainment on the Internet.”

About Gina Joseph

Gina Joseph is a features writer for Cision Blog, and is also the digital engagement manager for Cision’s marketing department. She’s a book nerd, Detroit sports enthusiast, lover of cats, lifelong Phil Collins fan, and budding snowboarder. Find her on Twitter @gmg912.

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