Nilay Patel & Ben Smith , Decoder with Nilay Patel

The social media age for news is over. Former BuzzFeed News editor Ben Smith on what’s next

02 May 2023 • 71 min • EN
71 min
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Ben Smith is the former and founding editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed News, the founder and editor-in-chief of Semafor, and the author of a new book called Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral, which is about the rise and fall of the social platform age in media, through the lens of Gawker Media and Buzzfeed and, in particular, their founders, Nick Denton and Jonah Peretti. I say the fall of the social platform age pretty literally: just before we spoke, Buzzfeed actually shut down Buzzfeed News, saying it just wasn’t making enough money, Facebook and the rest are all in on vertical video, and the chaos at Twitter means a lot of baseline media industry assumptions are now up for grabs. Ben and I talked about a lot – where do journalists build their brands now? Where does traffic even come from anymore? What’s next? Of course, we talked about Semafor as well. Ben and his co-founder, Justin Smith, raised $25 million and launched a news website, newsletters, and events covering the US and sub-Saharan Africa, with plans to expand into other regions. I wanted to know what lessons from Buzzfeed Ben brought into Semafor and, honestly, how he’s thinking about building an audience instead of just trying to get traffic.  This is a good one. The book’s great, too. Transcript: Links: Traffic by Ben Smith What Colors Are This Dress?  TikTok - The Verge Is Substack Notes a ‘Twitter clone’? We asked CEO Chris Best - The Verge MyPillow CEO’s free speech social network will ban posts that take the Lord’s name in vain - The Verge Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News Cambridge Analytica: understanding Facebook’s data privacy scandal - The Verge 28 Signs You Were Raised By Persian Parents In America Here's The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read To Her Attacker More Than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults At Massage Envy Macedonia’s Pro-Trump Fake News Industry Had American Links, And Is Under Investigation For Possible Russia Ties Watching Silicon Valley Bank melt down from the front row, with Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras - Decoder, The Verge  Credits: Decoder is a production of The Verge and part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. It was produced by Creighton DeSimone and Jackie McDermott with help from Hadley Robinson and it was edited by Callie Wright.  The Decoder music is by Breakmaster Cylinder. Our Editorial Director is Brooke Minters and our Executive Director is Eleanor Donovan. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

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