Capturing the Buzz of the Online Filipino
Then in 2013, Buzzfeed started exploring the Philippine market when posts about the life of Pinoys abroad started appearing on the website. “I started working in Buzzfeed at the summer of 2013 as an intern through their Editorial Fellowship program, which is a three-month job interview to work for Buzzfeed,” shares Matt. “So when I was a fellow, I did a couple of posts that dealt with Filipino identity and talked about being a Filipino. After which our editor-in-chief approached me saying that there was a big spike in traffic from the Philippines when I posted those articles, and found it as a very interesting market.” Matt though initially turned down a full position offer at the company as he was still completing his double degree in English and Media Studies at Vassar College at the time. Matt officially joined the Buzzfeed team the following year after his graduation. “Funnily, I was brought on to Buzzfeed to not do writing at all as I was hired to do editorial operations which is basically helping our editors and writers do their best work.” Matt shares that he was playing multiple roles so he got to do various stuff for the company. There were days he would train the new hires in their New York, London or Sydney offices, planning big events, coordinating with their senior management for planning content in the coming months, or arranging speakers and celebrity office visits. He continues, “So, one day they said that I was someone who was teaching a lot of these stuff to the team so I should also be writing.” With that, Matt resumed writing – and it was there that Buzzfeed Philippines was born. According to Matt, his article that currently has the most impact was on “21 annoying comments Filipinos are tired of hearing” which he attributed to the presence of Filipinos not just in the US, but in other parts of the world. “Buzzfeed Philippines started because I was there and they saw that something was clicking. And they said, why don’t I give it a shot and let’s see what happens.” Matt shares that in spite of (managing) Buzzfeed Philippines not being his main role in the company, he’s happy and grateful for the opportunity that his organization gave him to create the community. “They gave me the budget and the social media channels. And so, Buzzfeed is great in a way that when they see something is working, they’ll give it a push and see what happens and now it’s really, really exciting.”
When asked about what’s in store for 2016, Matt jokingly responds, “We’re still deciding. Ang aga pa! It’s just January 2016.” But, Matt feels strongly optimistic for the year. As a company, they’re looking into more collaboration among their different offices globally and subsections. As for Buzzfeed Philippines, he honestly doesn’t know yet. According to him, the team’s just really happy that their platform and how they work and what the internet has given them has really opened ways to explore new markets with agility and speed. And even with just a small crew, they’ve managed to grow the community which is currently at 100,000 Facebook likes in a short span of time, proudly pointing out that the number is more than Buzzfeed Canada and Mexico – markets that have a dedicated team and office. Matt says his team reciprocates the excitement that the Filipino community is giving to them. Personally, Matt hopes to feature more Filipino communities in the US through long form articles, photo essays and projects. He also would like to explore the sex, dating and relationship culture of the Philippines as he had been dubbed as the “Carrie Bradshaw of Buzzfeed” due to the previous articles he did for the website. As a hugely popular international portal that strongly represents the Filipino identity in the online space, Matt feels a subtle responsibility in all that he does for Buzzfeed Philippines, but he points out that he’s grateful that his organization supports his thrust for writing and allows him to do what he loves to do and talk about what he loves and interests him organically. Bottom line is, Buzzfeed Philippines is really for Filipinos. “Here’s the thing. Filipinos love beauty pageants. Benta sa ‘tin ang Miss Earth, Miss World, Miss Universe. I don’t care what the world, the universe rather, thinks about Filipinos. I care about what Filipinos think about themselves.” Matt points out that regardless of whether they post about Pia Wurtzbach’s facial reactions, Alma Moreno’s reservations, Americans trying to speak Filipino for the first or whatnot, as long as it makes Filipinos laugh, keeps them happy and entertains them, then that’s what Buzzfeed Philippines is for. As for the non-Filipino audiences who stumble upon the Philippine page, Matt admits it might get a little weird and strange, but he hopes that it will give the site visitor useful insights on the true culture of the Filipino.