“BuzzFeed editors say their audience used to see their site as a place you could find really cool stuff, but not a place you could trust. They’re trying to change that.” That is what the Columbia Journalism Review’s Marc Fisher wrote in 2014 of the site, which was for many years (and still might be) famous for its endless number of listicles and other viral content.
Despite its less-than-noble beginnings (Why click-bait will be the death of journalism, anyone?), BuzzFeed has worked hard to try to overcome is inherently click-baity foundation. In 2011 (five years after its founding), for instance, the American internet media company tapped Ben Smith, formerly of political news outlet, Politico, as editor-in-chief, in an effort to expand its ability to put forth serious reporting and long-form journalism.
While New York-based BuzzFeed still regularly boasts its fair share of bait posts, such as “I'm Seriously Cracking Up Over These Pictures of Lady Gaga Hiking” and “This Very Serious Personality Test Will Reveal Which Hybrid "Friends" Character You Are,” and maintains some questionable tactics (the unverified Russian dossier it published early this year caught a lot of flak from more established outlets), the online-only outlet has also begun producing hard-hitting investigative journalism.
As BuzzFeed continues to gain steam as a reputable news outlet, the New York Times appears to be watching. The Times, which published an expose on film executive Harvey Weinstein last week (after reportedly gutting a similar article over ten years ago after major advertiser Weinstein made his displeasure known), recently took on BuzzFeed, claiming that the latter’s new slogan - All the news too lit for print - is just a bit too similar to one of its own.
According to Law360, the Times’ “lawyers contacted BuzzFeed last week over its use of ‘All the news too lit for print’ to promote ‘AM to DM,’ a daily morning show that debuted last month. The slogan: A millennial-tinged spoof of the 120-year old Times’ ... iconic ‘All the News That's Fit to Print’ motto.”
The paper adopted its motto in October 1896 and has used it consistently ever since.
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed deleted the slogan from its site in order to avoid a fight with the publishing giant, which per Law360, “reached out with legal concerns, quietly avoiding a trademark fight that experts say [BuzzFeed] was unlikely to win.”
“We can confirm that The Times did reach out about AM to DM’s slogan. We’re glad they are following along with our new show, like the rest of our robust audience over the last few weeks," Matt Mittenthal, a representative for BuzzFeed News, said in a statement.
As for whether this is a move that can be coughed up to a compliment from the New York Times for “following along with [BuzzFeed’s] new show,” there is a chance. However, there is the undeniable element - as derived from the basis of a trademark infringement claim - that the Times simply does not want to be associated with the site.
Central to any trademark infringement claim, after all, is the argument that the allegedly infringing party (the one making unauthorized use of the trademark at issue or some that is similar)’s use is “confusingly similar” to the primary trademark holder’s mark. The theory is that such use might lead consumers to belief that the two parties are in some way affiliated or that the primary trademark holder (the Times in the instance) has authorized the other party (BuzzFeed)’s use of its mark. In threatening suit, the Times made clear that it was looking to quash any such notions.
There will be no Russian dossiers from the highly-regarded New York Times.