Wednesday, May 7, 2014

11 Things You Didn't Know About Scott Lamb

...And His Work At BuzzFeed.

Scott Lamb (GSAS '04) is currently BuzzFeed's VP of international, "which is a needlessly oblique way of saying I'm in charge of opening international offices for the site." Aside from spreading BuzzFeed all over the world, he's also helped launch Disaster Girl, was a Fulbright recipient in Berlin, and Gizmodo called him one of the 25 most viral people on the internet.

We had the opportunity to ask Scott Lamb a few questions about BuzzFeed, their international efforts, and of course, what he'd bring if he were stranded on a deserted island. Without further adieu...


1. What's your role at Buzzfeed and what projects are you currently working on?

I'm currently the VP of international for BuzzFeed, which is a needlessly oblique way of saying I'm in charge of opening international offices for the site. We opened in London last year, in Sydney in January, and I'm currently working on setting up a team and an office in Berlin. I travel a lot trying to understand media markets around the world, and giving talks on what BuzzFeed is and how we do what we do.


2. Why are Buzzfeed quizzes so popular?

One of the main ways to make things that people really share is to make things that are about people. A quiz gives you results tailored to your responses; sharing those results is saying something about yourself. They're also really (ideally) fun to take, so you have a really compelling combination -- a fun experience that yields results you want to share with the people in your network.


3. What kind of articles does Buzzfeed use internationally? Do people outside of the US prefer different content?

It varies by country, as you'd expect. The culture of the internet reflects the tastes and interests of the people who use it, and that changes in each culture. The work of the BuzzFeed UK team is more sardonic and satirical than the US site. We've noticed our French readers may click on cute animal stuff, but they share more news content. One of the really exciting things about taking the site global is getting to see the different voices that naturally develop in new places.


4. Is there a specific Buzzfeed article that was popular internationally but probably wouldn’t resonate with Americans?

We've found that anything the resonates in a few countries generally means its universal enough that it resonates with just about anyone. One of our most popular posts across languages so far has been 27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die, which is highly visual and also grabs you -- regardless of country, it's something people are into.


5. To flip the previous question, is there an article that was popular in the US that you don’t think would do well in other countries?

Anything that focuses on US politics and sports. Especially football, oof. Outside of the states, it's an incredibly niche sport. It's also a mixed bag when it comes to TV references -- they may do well mostly in Northern Europe, but there are certain shows that never made it beyond US audiences and just don't resonate at all.


6. How do international blogging/journalism/social media trends differ from those in the US?

The thing we saw happening in blogging in the US starting about 10 years ago, where blogs started to professionalize and gain real traction, hasn't happened in that many other places. There are still a lot of countries with very strong traditional media and almost no real blog culture to speak of. At the same time, you see a huge demographic shift towards readers wanting to consume media primarily online or via a smartphone or tablet, but traditional media outlets are still trying to figure out how to navigate that shift. With no existing blogs there to speak to that need, I think there's a hole in lot of these markets for sites like BuzzFeed to fill.

In terms of social media, the big trend in Asia is towards social messaging services like WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and Kakao. As a publisher, we're trying to figure out how we can make our content work well to spread on these new services.


7. What’s your favorite list?

Probably my favorite is Jack Shepherd's annual list of the most important cats of the year -- here's his list for 2013. It's an example of one of my favorite things we do at BuzzFeed, talking about an absurd topic in an incredibly serious, thought-out way.


8. What three things would you bring with you onto a deserted island?

An In-N-Out Burger franchise, the cast of "The Good Wife" and my iPhone.


9. What’s your favorite meme (aside from your own)?

Hmm, tough one. Do memes even really exist anymore? I think it's an open question. That being said, and at the risk of being sort of an obvious self-parody, I'd have to say I Should Buy A Boat Cat. The image of that damn cat never fails to make me chuckle, and then think about the pointless narcissism of the human race and sort of sigh quietly to myself.


10. Being one of “the most viral people on the internet” is quite a powerful position. How do you use the power?

Mostly to talk about old memes from the early 2000s, and also to make fun of steampunk.


11. Have you ever had doubts about a list that was published--or not published? (Which one?)

I've trained myself to not listen to doubts. We think of a lot of our work at BuzzFeed as experiments: You publish something and if it does well it gets shared widely, but if it does poorly it just sinks to the dark waters of the internet to never be heard from again. Which is a good thing. So I don't tend to second-guess what we run, or to hold on to things or over-think them. If you have an idea, you should work diligently to get it out into the world as fast as you can. Though looking through my drafts folder of old posts I see some gems like 43 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About James Franco and 8 Things Shorter Than The Gen. John R. Allen/Jill Kelley Emails and I don't for a minute think the world is any less well off for never having seen them, so.

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