To complete its transformation into the poop cruise network of the Internet age, CNN has found the perfect partner for a joint YouTube channel: Buzzfeed, arguably the original poop cruise of the online news age. Since new president Jeff Zucker took over late last year, America's first (but often third-ranked) cable news channel has taken cues from the Internet: His ongoing obsession with what one CNN employee called "good water-cooler TV" in The Washington Post has taken cues from the web in its story torture of stories that aren't exactly A1 news (the stranded Carnival cruise ship, which even Buzzfeed yawned at), in its true-crime default button (the Chris Dorner manhunt, Jodi Arias overload), and most recently, and repeatedly, in around-the-clock human survival stories from Oklahoma tornado. But that transformation has happened mostly on television, with Zucker hiring a small fleet of poop cruise ready anchors and readying for more. CNN's refreshed website has gone the obsessive, emotional route as well, with a big splashy lead story and an almost constant breaking news banner for scooplet after scooplet, despite the whole Boston "arrest" debacle. But to fend off native web competition (Vice wants to leapfrog CNN as "the default source for news on YouTube") and help its video survive in the social-media tornado or online news, CNN needed a new kind of YouTube presence. So Zucker and Co. turned to an eight-figure deal with those emotional, cat-news-meets-hard-news folks over at Buzzfeed, as The Wall Street Journal's William Laudner reports.
See, CNN can't exactly give the BuzzFeed "10 Animals That Look Like Poop Cruise Victims" treatment to its CNN.com stories, but now those ideas have an online home — and some branding for the kids. The first video uploaded to the co-branded channel not only features the BuzzFeed logo and font but its editorial touch. "Some of The Most Amazing Rescue Moments on CNN" has the feel-good touch of viral BuzzFeed sensations like the "Happiest Facts of All Time" — it's all warm and fuzzy enough to make you want to share it, even if it's something of a promotional tool for that stodgy old news channel that's become so obsessed with wandering cruise ships:
In the future, you can expect more of that — and on a variety of topics by way of what the two companies are referring to as "mashup" videos, the Journal reports. So you can expect Buzzfeed to take its notorious scroll-through photo posts and put them into video format to "help CNN stay relevant with younger audiences" with clips posted on both sites. Buzzfeed, which also collaborated with The New York Times on hip videos for the conventions last summer, will also build out some of its signature lists for CNN.com, according to this CNN press release. "The two organizations will collaborate on original list posts that combine the strength of CNN’s newsgathering and BuzzFeed's signature voice," reads the release. So maybe instead of lifting quotes and photos from Reddit for all those Facebook shares, these listicles will have the integrity of CNN's reporting — or at least CNN wanted the traffic that comes with them included in the "low" eight-digit deal. "It's the perfect modern day media collaboration," CNN digital chief KC Estenson says. And maybe it is, but for now the partnership will launch without any advertising agreements. "The more agile way to do it is to launch without letting advertising products dictate editorial content," Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed's chief operating officer, told the Journal. Buzzfeed has its formula for that, too — so it may just be a matter of time before Virgin Mobile Brought to You by Buzzfeed "mashes up" with "CNN Brought to You by Buzzfeed." Should be quite the collision course — just beware of the smell.
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- Jeff Zucker