We can’t remember when BuzzFeed articles first invaded our consciousness, but now we can’t even imagine life without it.
From cheeky lists describing reactions to everyday events, lovely odes to celebrities, pop culture and events, to serious pieces about typhoons, war and other current issues, the online media site’s nose for viral news has always been spot on.
Lately, a lot of its posts have accurately captured the Filipino penchant for humor, and in that instinctive way we have that can suss out whether the honey-toned diva belting out a tune on “American Idol” is one-sixteenth Pinoy, we knew there was a local guy behind it.
Meet Matthew Manahan Ortile, BuzzFeed’s education and culture coordinator. The transplanted New Yorker is the guy behind posts such as “22 Inevitable Struggles Only Balikbayans Will Understand,” “31 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About The Philippines,” “37 Reasons Sam Milby Is The Dashing Pinoy Prince You Deserve,” and our favorite, “29 Puntastic Jokes That Only Pinoys Will Understand.”
Inquirer Super asks him to talk about his job, his version of New York and what his favorite Filipino snack is.
When was the first time you visited New York?
My first trip to New York was in the spring of 2009. I was visiting colleges at the time and while I ended up going to school in the Hudson Valley, there was something about New York that just really made sense.
How long have you lived there?
I lived in Manhattan for the summers between school. But officially, I moved to New York right after graduating from Vassar College, so I’ve only actually lived here for three months. Feels longer than that, though!
Why did you decide to move to New York?
For work and for friends. I’d already started planting my career roots here while interning at magazines and websites, and a lot of my closest friends wanted to move to Brooklyn. But ever since I was a teenager, I had always envisioned myself living in New York. It’s been a real trip that the dream is finally a reality.
Tell us about your job at BuzzFeed.
I first started working at BuzzFeed through its Editorial Fellowship program. It’s basically a three-month job interview and BuzzFeed boot camp. I did that in the summer of 2013 and then went back to college to finish my senior year at Vassar while staying on as a contributing writer. In April, my editor at BuzzFeed contacted me about a new position at the company and by the end of the month, I was hired as the education and culture coordinator (ECC).
I started in late May so I’ve officially been at BuzzFeed for three months. As the ECC, I work on educational programming and on-boarding training for the BuzzFeed editorial team. When I talk to new hires, I like to tell them I’m essentially the school guidance counselor. I plan and execute a calendar of classes to facilitate editorial development, things like skill workshops, brainstorms, master classes, guest speakers and book clubs.
As for BuzzFeed Philippines, I handle the Twitter and Facebook page and do a majority of the content creation. We saw that social engagement from the Philippines is so strong on the site that we thought this would be a good way to experiment with material focused towards a global Filipino audience.
What is a day like for you at BuzzFeed?
My days always vary since I play many roles in the editorial team. So I can have a day that starts with a training session for new hires, then making a guest speaker’s talk happen, planning future classes with editors, editing drafts from our current writers in the fellowship program, and working on my own material in between all of that. It’s always crazy but it’s fulfilling and fun work. There’s never a dull day at the office.
How is a BuzzFeed article conceptualized?
Ideas are always thrown around in meetings and brainstorms between teams of writers and editors. If something sticks to the wall, you start creating the piece and play around with it. Once you have a draft, you share it with your team to get their edits and your main editor gives the final green-light. It’s a really collaborative process and the editing is smart because everyone wants you to do well.
What are your favorite BuzzFeed stories?
Rega Jha’s piece “Spring Break, Mumbai” is one of my absolute favorite pieces of writing on the site. And the same with Keely Flaherty’s “My Boyfriend Broke Up With Me In The Shower And All I Got Was This Essay.” And I love a lot of other posts, but one that I’ll always remember is “The Definitive Ranking of Noodles From Worst To Best.”
Were you a BuzzFeed reader before joining the company?
Totally. I was first introduced to BuzzFeed by a friend who started working there in 2012 and it quickly went into my bookmarks bar.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The most wonderful part about being at BuzzFeed is that it’s a place where creativity is the main goal. When you consider yourself a creative person and you manage to find a group of like-minded people who want to do quality work while pushing for constant innovation, then it’s total bliss. And we’re growing at this exciting pace, so it’s awesome to see everyone around you pushing the boundaries in every direction, be it in news reporting, lifestyle writing or finding new identities and audiences to speak to.
What’s the best buzz you’ve heard about BuzzFeed?
There was this e-mail that went around the company and attached to it was a review of the BuzzFeed app. The review was from a 14-year-old girl who shared how much she loves BuzzFeed, how the site gives her all the news and entertainment and fun she wants. It was nice to see someone who grew up with BuzzFeed in a way, and knows the site as a place for both serious journalism, breaking news, and lists and quizzes. She said, “BuzzFeed is love. BuzzFeed is life.” It reminded us all on staff why we’re here.
Where did you get the Filipino snacks/food that the staff tried?
That great video was created by our team in Los Angeles; I don’t know exactly where and how, but Filipino food is pretty easy to get in California given all the Filipino communities there.
What is your personal favorite when it comes to Filipino food?
Nothing beats a longganisa, egg and fried rice breakfast.
What Filipino snacks are you hooked on?
There are days when I crave Kirei or Oishi like I’m in my third trimester.
How Filipino was your upbringing when you moved to the States?
It was pretty Filipino. I moved at the age of 12 so part of my childhood was also colored by ABS-CBN, Ateneo de Manila and Greenbelt. Then we moved to Las Vegas. There’s a big Filipino community there so it didn’t feel very different. My parents and I always spoke Tagalog at home, I hung out with their Filipino friends’ sons and daughters, I ate Filipino food… I only wish we had TFC!
Among the articles you’ve written, which one has been the most fun to write?
Creating “21 Annoying Comments Filipinos Are Tired Of Hearing” was a blast. I had a great time making the gifs of Kris and Toni and Sam and Vice Ganda, but I’m also happy I was able to create something that made sense to both Filipinos and non-Filipinos. That’s ultimately the goal for BuzzFeed Philippines: to be a place for Filipino content that speaks to both Pinoy and non-Pinoy readers, so that there’s a takeaway for all audiences. It’s not about isolating a particular culture, but sharing it instead.
Did you always want to work in media/publishing?
Very much so. I grew up spending hours at the magazine stands of the local grocery so I think that’s where it all started. And now that we’ve entered this new phase of publishing moving towards the Internet, I’m very happy to be on the BuzzFeed ship to see where the tide takes us.
What are you busy with now?
Given our recent expansion, we’re hiring like mad right now, so I’m always training new editorial staffers. But something I’m planning on doing for BuzzFeed Philippines is going to Little Manila in Queens, New York, to interview some Filipinos about what they miss most about the Philippines.
How do you relax?
By taking an afternoon off with a good book and noise-canceling headphones.
Any interesting hobbies/interests/obsessions?
I recently signed a lease on a new apartment so I’m obsessed with home improvement right now. My next project is installing floating shelves in my bedroom.
What do you love most about living in New York?
There’s always something new somewhere to explore.
What do you miss most about the Philippines?
My family. And Max’s Fried Chicken.
How often do you go home to Manila?
Once a year, at least. During college, it was a little harder since I was working in New York all the time, but my last visit was this past Christmas.
Favorite way to connect with loved ones back home?
My mom absolutely loves MagicJack so that’s one way. And I text my parents via Viber.
Five things you can’t live without?
My iPhone, Starbucks, my bed, my water bottle, the subway.
Haha, BuzzFeed! But really, I’d have to say that my most visited site is weather.com.
Right now, I’m really loving Evernote. It’s where all my ideas and to-do lists live.
When friends visit New York, I take them to…
The waterfront on the Hudson River. Boat Basin Cafe on the Upper West Side is right on the water and the views are incredible in the evening.
Favorite borough and why?
Manhattan. I work here, I live here. But I’ll travel to Brooklyn for the people I love.
Favorite New York restaurant/s?
I usually go to Pounds and Ounces in Chelsea for dinner whenever I see a show at the Joyce Theater down the block. Its burgers are exceptional. And Buvette in the West Village is amazing for brunch. And all meals in general.
Favorite New York cheap thrill:
Riding the ferry on the East River to Ikea!
Favorite thing to do on weekdays:
I love looking through this row of thrift stores on 17th Street in Chelsea after work. I’m looking to get a white sofa (despite my better judgment).
Favorite thing to do on weekends:
For lazy afternoons, I like to walk through the Upper West Side and people-watch. My favorites are families with their toddlers and dogs.
Favorite places for shopping:
The Lincoln Center/Columbus Circle area has a lot of my favorites like J. Crew, West Elm, Sephora, and Zara.
Where you go for a dose of culture:
The Joyce Theater offers great shows from touring dance companies at accessible prices so I make it a point to go as often as I can. And Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater is an amazing space for live music.
Favorite New York hangout:
I’ve been in Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park a lot, given the lovely summer we’ve had.
One New York secret you wish you could tell tourists:
Please do yourself a favor and book a hotel not close to Times Square or Grand Central. There’s so much more to New York than midtown.
Any other secrets about your city that you want to share?
I’m a huge shutterbug as well but please don’t stop to take selfies on a crowded sidewalk. You’re just asking for trouble.
Follow Matt on Twitter/Instagram: @MattOrtile. Follow @BuzzFeedPH.