Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

BuzzFeed Bulks Up Again, With a Tech Section Run by Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan

Do we need more Web sites writing about tech? Yes, yes we do.

Which is good, because here’s another one: BuzzFeed, the online publishing start-up that’s the toast of people who like to write about online publishing start-ups, is adding a tech section run by Gizmodo star Matt Buchanan.

This follows a now-familiar pattern we’ve seen from BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti. Last month, Peretti brought on Politico star Ben Smith to start up the site’s political coverage and to run its overall editorial operations. A couple of weeks ago, he hired Doree Shafrir from Rolling Stone’s Web site to oversee “culture” coverage for the site.

Now Buchanan*, a five-year veteran of Gawker Media’s gadget-obsessed site, will start a new “vertical,” along with John Herrman from Popular Mechanics.

All of this hiring comes as Peretti is flush with cash courtesy of a $15 million funding round, and has reconnected with many of the people he used to work with at Huffington Post, which he co-founded.

Fellow HuffPo cofounder Ken Lerer is also a BuzzFeed co-founder, and former HuffPo ad boss Greg Coleman has come on as an advisor. Everyone who types about the media business likes writing about Peretti, but if you haven’t read any of this yet, I’d suggest starting with this New York Observer profile.

Buchanan and his crew will start publishing in mid-February, says Smith, who says the coverage will be something like what Buchanan did at Gizmodo, and also nothing like it. Think more “tech culture,” and less “stuff about gadgets.”

Well, maybe you should hold off on calling it “tech culture,” too, Smith says. “I guess I hesitate to call it tech culture, because I don’t think there’s a clear line between tech and culture anymore.”

Okay. So what’s next up in the BuzzFeed expansion plan? There’s got to be a bunch of cash left, right? “There will be more. Stay tuned.”

And now, a lightly edited version of a superfast exit interview I conducted via IM with Buchanan, who I gather is headed out for a couple of drinks as I type this.

Peter Kafka: Why’d you leave Gawker Media? I know lots of people have come to you in the past. Why go now?

Matt Buchanan: It’s an opportunity to build something completely new on a really exciting platform, which, even though the hallmark of Gizmodo is the immense freedom we all have, you know, the one thing I can never get here is the chance to do it all from scratch. And to do something that’s different from what a lot other tech sites are doing, I hope. I do love Gawker, and everybody here. I was from the generation that never got screwed over, so I only have good things to say about it.

Kafka: So should we be looking elsewhere for unboxing coverage, liveblogs of Android OS unveilings, and other blow-by-blow standards of tech coverage? Or will you leave all that behind?

Buchanan: Leaving almost all of that behind. I think technology deserves writing and criticism at the same level as any other aspect of culture, like film or music, because the reality of our world now is that it is just as important as those things. It is mainstream culture now. So we want to do tech for humans, as a main thing — but I also want hardcore tech readers to like what they see, too.

Like, we’ll talk about phones and gadgets to the extent that we find it interesting, and that other people might find it interesting, but no, this isn’t another gadget site. I would like to note that it is the first technology site powered entirely by ginger tears, which is what I’m most excited about.

Kafka: Curious about your take on your new employer. Seems to me that, while they’re uncomfortable saying this out loud, Jonah and crew are really setting out to build a new version of HuffPo: Build site by aggregating/curating, etc., other people’s content, then use that momentum/money to hire their own folks to build on that. The big obvious difference is that there isn’t a personality driving it from the get-go. And it’s tuned more to social than to search. Thoughts?

Buchanan: Yes! I think it’s too early to tell for some of that — even for me — but what I’m into is the fact that it’ll give John and I the freedom and flexibility to do the kind of tech writing and journalism that we want to do.

*Disclosure: I’ve met Matt a couple times, have chatted with him online a few more times, and I like him. He’s also an excellent resource if you’re planning a trip to Momofuku Ssäm (which you should definitely do, unless you’re a vegetarian) and need help with your ordering strategy.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus