Disinformation content production

Russian disinformation factories of Russia follow the Buzzfeed content model, according to the ever-insightful digital strategist, Rob Blackie. They throw themes and formats at the wall and see what sticks, to paraphrase his jargon free interpretation of the approach.

Buzzfeed doesn’t care whether listicles or explainers are there internet’s sharing drug of choice this week, it’s editors go where the attention signals take them. Similarly, when trying to exacerbate divisions in Europe or the US, online disinformation teams in St Petersburg try out whatever offensive, divisive content they can in all sorts of formats and then do more of the things that work – work at stirring discord in rivals’ societies that is.

Competing for attention is as much the domain of intelligence agencies as news startups these days. Although backing from the Kremlin or alt-right hedge fund owners solves the business model side of the equation for dezinformatsiya peddlers. Buzzfeed has to rely on markets rather than ideologues to keep the lights on.

Buzzfeed blues

A couple of years ago my advice for an organisation completing for attention online was “copy Buzzfeed“. Buzzfeed understands the nature of the web – that you can’t predict what content succeed, but you can run as many experiments as you like and build on successes earlier and faster if you give credits access to the right data.

The editorial content model at Buzzfeed still works – but the company is having to dial down its aversion to advertising in order to make money, even as the digital add market is getting tougher. It’s also cutting 100 jobs this week.

So copy Buzzfeed’s data-supported content approach, but find another business model? That would seem to be the right approach.