How to Respond When Your Content Strategy Comes Under Fire

If not for intern Brian Feldman, BuzzFeed might have lost a great opportunity to take advantage of being made fun of by McSweeney’s.

Jory John, author of All My Friends are Dead, recently wrote a list titled “Suggested Buzzfeed Articles” on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. The titles included “15 Ways to Obliterate a Tree” and “3 Opera Singers Covered in Day-Old Newspapers.”

Intern Feldman discovered the post and sent it to Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s managing editor.

“As a general policy, we try not to engage the trolls,” Lamb said, “But on the second read, this wasn’t trolling. The McSweeney’s post was funny and sharp and a parody — with a pretty clear critique of BuzzFeed — but it also struck me as coming from someone who knows and likes BuzzFeed as well. Not a hater.”

Lamb said Feldman suggested a post about it. While Lamb was hesitant at first, he asked the staff for input and reconsidered Feldman’s idea. Lamb decided that BuzzFeed would actually try to create all of the posts, calling them “Suggested BuzzFeed Articles,” with McSweeney’s as Community Contributor.

Lamb said one longtime user already wrote The World’s 13 Laziest Salmon. The posts combined have reached about 350,000 views.

BuzzFeed felt flattered that they’ve “risen to the level where people would bother satirizing,” Lamb said.

What “sets us apart is a willingness to be experimental and engage with others on the Internet,” he said. “The site has grown very organically from something small into something much larger, but our perspective is still very much that we’re from the Internet, not outside of it. One of the web’s great and defining charactertistics is playfulness, which is also a main trait at BuzzFeed.”

Content strategists and online marketers in general should take note. Playfulness and the willing to take risks can lead to greater rewards with online readers.

Brands should strive to be a place where readers can be entertained and engaged, meaning audiences are also “in a place” to respond and be playful as well. Lamb called the content spat, “good fun for the Internet,” a goal that marketers of all kinds should strive for.

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