The most interesting thing about BuzzFeed Fresh is what it doesn't have

All carrot, all the time.

Buzzfeed has launched Fre.sh, a microsite which shows "the fastest rising stories from the best sites on web". It's a neat little site, and could well make it on the home pages of a lot of people: 50 stories are listed, with just the headline and a little icon showing the source. The rank is determined by how fast the story is spreading, so the link at the top is the fastest rising story; and the size of the text reflects how much traffic it's getting.

So at a glance you can tell that Salon's story about being "a liberal mole at Fox News" is the fastest rising story, although the Mail's write-up of the Chinese baby being flushed away is getting significantly more traffic:

But that's not the most interesting thing about the site. Because rather than looking at what it has, look at what it doesn't have: a single advert. Instead, as best I can tell, the business case for Fre.sh is contained in a little line at the bottom:

Hey publishers! To add your site to Fre.sh, join the BuzzFeed Network.

That may change over time; the project is clearly marked as being from Buzzfeed Labs, so it's a release-fast-and-iterate job. But the Buzzfeed Network is the site's most under-discussed weapon, and as it stands, Fre.sh is a massive carrot being waved under the noses of any publisher which has yet to sign up.

The deal Buzzfeed offers publishers is that if they sign up as a partner, Buzzfeed will link to their stories from the front page (under "hot on the web" – though curiously, the "hot" stories aren't the same as the "fresh" ones) and in a few of the main content slots. What Buzzfeed gets in return is tracking information from the partners. It's a win-win! The partners get loads of lovely traffic, and Buzzfeed gets the thing that any web-native company craves more than anything else – data.

So much data, in fact, that they can now tell their partners which of their stories are rising fastest – something that, I'd imagine, at least some of the partners can't do themselves. Buzzfeed now knows how many of its readers also click around the Daily Mail, and how many of them get their "real" news from the Guardian.

All that data pays back back to the site's native advertising model. That's the part of Buzzfeed which all the ink has been spilled over: the sponsored posts engineered for "viral lift" and ideally indistinguishable from the site's normal content

Because sure, advertisers will pay to speak to what they think of as Buzzfeed's audience; but they'll pay a lot more when they realise that they're speaking to a significant chunk of the NYT's readers, without even having to pay the NYT's rates. And the more partners Buzzfeed has, the more they can eat other organisations' lunches without them even knowing.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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