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Yes, deepfakes can make people believe in misinformation — but no more than less-hyped ways of lying
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March 3, 2015, 12:22 p.m.
LINK: stratechery.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   March 3, 2015

Analyst Ben Thompson has a good piece up providing the service he often does: examining a portion of the media landscape the way a Valley-tinged capitalist might, without any of the romance people brought up in the media business might bring. If you’ve ever wondered why so many people are fascinated by BuzzFeed — specifically in how it takes the broader lessons of Internet success and tries to apply them to the creation of news — this piece is a good starting point.

What’s interesting is how the existence and popularity of this post [yes, the one about #TheDress] was made possible by BuzzFeed’s embrace of Internet assumptions:

— The photo may have seemed frivolous, but hey, why not make a post? It’s not like it cost BuzzFeed anything beyond a few minutes of Holderness’s time

— Like a huge amount of BuzzFeed’s content, the photo wasn’t produced by BuzzFeed; it was discovered on the Internet (Tumblr in this case)

— The post blew up first on Twitter, and then Facebook: millions of people were exposed directly to the link within minutes. Few if any arrived via BuzzFeed’s homepage

In fact, while it’s theoretically possible that the post could have been created anywhere, I don’t think it was an accident that it happened at BuzzFeed.

[…]

…BuzzFeed incentivizes its writers to fully embrace Internet assumptions, and just as importantly disincentivizes pure sensationalism. There is no self-editing or consideration of whether or not a particular post will make money, or if it will play well on the home page, or dishonestly writing a headline just to drive clicks. The only goal is to create — or find — something that resonates.

More importantly, with this model BuzzFeed has returned to the journalistic ideal that many – including myself – thought was lost with the demise of newspapers’ old geographic monopolies: true journalistic independence. Just as journalists of old didn’t need to worry about making money, just writing stories that they thought important, BuzzFeed’s writers simply need to write stories that people find important enough to share; the learning that results is how they make money. The incentives are perfectly aligned.

[…]

The world needs great journalism, but great journalism needs a great business model. That’s exactly what BuzzFeed seems to have, and it’s for that reason the company is the most important news organization in the world.

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