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PR, Not Traffic, Got Copyranter Fired from BuzzFeed

MarkDuffyBuzzFeedMark Duffy, aka Copyranter aka our favorite advertising curmudgeon, made some waves in the incestuous blog news world last month by announcing his imminent departure from BuzzFeed.

Initially we thought that his cranky critiques just weren’t quite “BuzzFeedy” enough for the audience: too many FAILs and not enough kittens.

Turns out it was less a readership issue and more of a “pissing off potential advertisers” issue. At EOD yesterday Duffy posted a listicle on Gawker detailing the reasons why he got the boot, and angering Unilever with an anti-Axe Body Spray post appears to have been exhibit #1 in the “creative differences” file.

Apparently multiple brand reps called Editor-in-Chief BuzzFeed Ben to complain about posts mocking their ad campaigns, and at a certain point the company decided that Duffy was more liability than asset despite the fact that he “ranked seventh out of about 100 writers for traffic.” As Ben put it:

“I absorb a great deal of heat from targets of stories that we write, from Beyonce’s publicist to politicians to businesses, and I’ve just realized the stuff I am least able to defend is, occasionally, yours.”

The lesson here is that, if you want your big web property to make money via ads or sponsored content or whatever they’ll be calling it in six months, you have to restrain your snark a bit while somehow maintaining the edge that makes you stand out. It’s a tough balance to maintain, and BuzzFeed probably should have known better.

One question, though: who attaches a “CUTE” sticker to a “you’re fired” letter? WTF (no LOL)?

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