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Does HUD Belong on BuzzFeed?

Maybe it’s just because I’m a news nerd, but I’ve always really enjoyed media parody. Last month I added a new site to my perennial favorites of The Onion, The Daily Show/Colbert Report power hour, and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: ClickHole. It’s a new effort from the folks at The Onion devoted to mocking so called “click-bait” sites like BuzzFeed. Click-bait sites thrive on quizzes and headlines that tap into outrage as much as they do the faux personalization of nostalgia (see: “WTF Is In Your Favorite Fast Food?” vs. “7 Signs You Grew Up In A Boring Town”). They feature very little text, and “articles” are mostly made up of a list or slideshow of gifs and images with snarky captions. Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.16.50 AMClickHole, on the flip side, skewers these click-bait sites magnificently, with headlines like, “How Well Do You Know This Quiz?,” “Tips For Crafting A Strong Password That Really Pops,” and “This Video Will Drastically Change The Way Pitbulls Think About You.” Now that I’ve added ClickHole to my Facebook feed, I think I’m seeing more parody on my page than real news. It sounds a little dangerous, but it does have the positive impact of making me question the validity of the often overstated click-bait headlines I do see. But what happens when real items are posted on BuzzFeed in true earnest? You might chuckle, but that indeed happened this week when HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan posted his own top ten list of “Reasons Why Home Ownership Never Goes Out of Style.” It’s the second example I can think of where this administration went silly with a serious subject (Obama promoting healthcare changes on Between Two Ferns being the first). On the one hand, this represents an eminently sharable way to reach out to younger consumers who might not listen to these messages if they aren’t couched in gifs and irony. On the other hand, I do feel like BuzzFeed is a little below the lofty goals of the American Dream. I mean, does a gif of Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down saying “dolla, dolla bills, ya’ll” really convince anyone of the value of home equity? I mean, just look at Donovan’s byline! He’s been demoted from “United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development” to “BuzzFeed user.” But heck, I’m just a writer. I would love to hear what you guys, as real estate pros, think about whether or not it helps housing for HUD to use click-bait sites to preach the message of home ownership. Chime in below, and click safely.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

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