1) BuzzFeed focuses on creating content that people will want to share on their social accounts. So, what is the secret to getting people to share what BuzzFeed creates?
Smith: The basic secret is quality. Readers are deluged with information all day and share what moves or informs them, and what they’re proud to share with their friends — whether it’s a scoop or a great feature, or a funny list that captures the experience of being 29, or a riff on Beyonce.
2) You write about the idea of disruption in your essay for Playboy. As EIC of BuzzFeed, how do you prepare for the day when BuzzFeed is disrupted in a significant way.
Smith: We’re very aware of the way in which people share news and entertainment, and the platforms they use, and we really just try to do the best quality work we can on all fronts. But there will at some point be new journalism outfits who are, like us, rooted in the social web, and we welcome the competition.
3) In terms of the 2016 presidential election, how do you see the role of social media changing from 2012?
Smith: Twitter will clearly remain the central channel for the inside political conversation, though it’ll get noisier and you’ll have even more of the players –politicians and top staffers — communicating directly and natively on it. Meanwhile, Facebook has the reach and the potential to eclipse television as the only true mass medium in the country.
4) Over at The Nation, Michelle Goldberg condemned Justine Sacco for her now infamous tweet and said she deserved to lose her job, but wrote “the gleeful way she was publicly destroyed as she was stuck in the air, unaware and unable to respond or delete her social media accounts, is still chilling.”
Do you think the story merited all the attention if was given?
Smith: I thought we covered it about right — we did a single item that afternoon, after IAC released a statement. But this wasn’t an issue of news organizations treating it as the story of the century — it was a matter of a massive Twitter pile-on, driven in fact by a kind of ugly, amused, eagerness to see her misery when she landed.
5) What’s your one piece of advice for journalists just starting out in the business?
Smith: To get out of New York City and get a job that involves real reporting, ideally on crime. We just hired a great young investigative reporter from the Indianapolis Star, and there’s so much opportunity to do great work at regional and international outlets.