The Agars, Buzzfeed and our garage

John Agar Sr., wanted to do something with his son, John Jr. John the younger has cerebral palsy and, while they were looking for a thing to do, they found the 5K. Dad would push son 3.1 miles through the course. They got lapped by a power walker. So they resolved to train harder. And these guys are something special. I could tell you, but John’s sister Annie is about to show you:

They race all over these days, the Agars inspire and delight and even challenge Michael Phelps to races. Phelps, who was last seen in a simulated race against a shark, hasn’t taken them on yet.

This is an interesting idea. Buzzfeed is going to do a Twitter broadcast. I’m trying to work this out in my mind. Poynter tells us about it:

BuzzFeed News is launching a morning show on Twitter later this year, and it’s hiring a team to get it off the ground.

The next broadcast from the company that brought you exploding watermelons and a live goat ambush is a weekday newscast aimed at “an audience that wakes up hungry for the latest in ‘fire Tweets,'” according to a May 1 press release from Twitter (which also announced streaming shows with The Verge and Cheddar).

The winner here is Twitter. I’m not sure it is the right idea for Buzzfeed — curating the ideas of the many seems like a return to an older distribution model in a different envelope — but maybe at a place like Buzzfeed it doesn’t have to be the right idea just now. Maybe you just have to have the idea, because that’s going to lead to The Idea. I don’t know what The Idea there is going to be, but they have plenty of sharp people on board and it’ll develop over time, or strike as an epiphany.

Wouldn’t you like to have The Idea first? It isn’t hub-and-spoke. It isn’t TMZ and it won’t be a gatekeeper style. It won’t be the old Buzzfeed kitten and listicle model, either. And again, you can’t curate everything coming out of the firehose. A small portion of the success of the social media monsters can be attributed to the implications there. Even if you tried, it would be a Kardashian tweet here, a sports blooper there and today’s best pet or kid video. And then you’ve got a host basically reading tweets to us as a show. And the hashtags. (Don’t read hashtags allowed.) Or, slightly better, you get a panel laughing and reacting or maybe even contextualizing the content. A super smart version of that might be viable. You might create the Twitter broadcast version of some of the better network or cable shows — but cooler, for a social media program. But then there’s gravitas, name recognition, the boring logistics of “Can you get that person on?” And then, if they are good, can you get them regularly? Are they in demand for network appearances? And which show would you choose if both sets of producers called?

All of these traditional — or newly traditional routines, if you will — will present the same issues here. But I think, for them, it has to drive you back to Buzzfeed. Why would a site who made their name as a part of the evolutionary media disruption go exclusively to social media, another ripple from their point of view? There’s something to be said for presence and branding, of course, but that’s not the big goal out of this. Maybe it is an offshoot of a new growth pattern, a new revenue stream for the company that seemingly fell well short of their projections last year. Maybe they’re starting their own gif-driven social media platform.

Or what if this is successful? What if the website, which grew on those lists and rewrites and became an earnest newsroom and, to some, an influential juggernaut, ultimately spins off their video programs.

I have a notebook sitting in a closet where I doodled out the mass media fragmentation models. It basically went from four big blobs to a bunch of lines and dots. And it seemed, back in 2006 or so when I was writing in that book, that all of those dots and smaller blobs and indistinct triangles and other shapes would naturally one day coalesce again. I thought of it as a natural reaction to funnels at the time. Maybe it is a corporate response to market forces and the silo-ification that is bound to happen. It has happened before.

This I wondered about while straightening up in the garage this evening. But the boxes in the garage didn’t give me the answers. I’m down to watch and see. I did not have The Idea.

Today, that is.

Update: My friend and Knight Fellow Andre Natta chimes in, because he’s smart and I asked him too. He made three keen points. One of them I wanted to include:

Because, is there really a better use than managing accuracy during a breaking news event (or managing the hot take hose)?

That would be a great feature. Who do we trust for that? We don’t trust traditional media for it 98 percent of the time. We should trust them more. Is Buzzfeed going to bring me the Ryan Seacrest-Cronkite of this generation to tell me the Kansas City Star is on the ground and has bonafides and is offering legitimate Twitter coverage the next time there’s a big problem in the ‘burbs?

If that’s the case maybe who is really missing out here are the news networks. Buzzfeed won’t build this out for breaking news. That’s an important model, but it isn’t sustainable for them. What’s more, CNN and the like struggle with a variety of on-air management issues in slower news periods.

As for Andre’s thought on the “hot take hose” … Here’s something that may very well be impacted by such a Buzzfeed move. Watch the “trending topics” and “who to follow” boxes. Already, if you click a trending topic that “who to follow” box updates with relevant or topical accounts. Now throw in a video box on the right side, with some slick production under the Buzzfeed brand and the topics amplify. It is a traditional media idea, agenda setting theory. Walter Lippman’s original idea, that the media are what connects events to audience, and all of the scholarship that followed, which basically says “Media can tell you what to think about” works here. If Twitter is a water cooler. There’s about to be a new, very dynamic co-worker hanging out there.

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