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The BuzzFeed Canada launch party in Toronto on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Was BuzzFeed punking Canada?

Back in April, when the New York-based news and shareable content factory announced it would open an editorial operation in Toronto, there were cheers within Canadian journalism. Sure, people were happy about the handful of new jobs, but there was more to it: In just over three years, BuzzFeed's news department has shown a canny ability to find new audiences, especially among millennials. The increased competition might make everyone more innovative.

The company hired a small team of digitally savvy reporters and editors, who began exhaustive listicling and tweeting of all things moose and Degrassi. And then, on Wednesday afternoon, they took the wraps off of a front page that looked like a spoof of government-mandated Canadian content quotas.

Headlines on the new BuzzFeed Canada included "Can We Guess Your Personality Based on How You Cook Kraft Dinner?" "19 Things Canadians Have Actually Apologized For," "Why the Canada Goose Should Be The Most Feared Predator" and "Can You Guess the Canadian Provinces and Territories Based on Emojis?"

The lead story was a video: "Tim Hortons vs. Dunkin Donuts: The Official Donut and Coffee Showdown."

BuzzFeed had landed in Canada, eh? And yes, we were sorry.

Mind you, on the hype-backlash life cycle sine curve of such things, BuzzFeed was already on the far side of its first or second or maybe even third peak. Gawker Media, an older blog network that had once ruled the roost, said last January that it would shift how it measured success, and emphasize such things as journalistic impact, because it couldn't "play the viral traffic game as shamelessly as BuzzFeed."

A few months later, BuzzFeed landed in hot water after it removed a pair of posts that had been critical of some advertisers. Then, last week, in a piece about the new digital news ecosystem, Michael Massing wrote in The New York Review of Books that he found the site's news reports "conventional" and "tame." "Much of BuzzFeed's news feed seems indistinguishable from that of a wire service," he observed.

The criticism doesn't bother Craig Silverman, the new editor of BuzzFeed Canada. "When you have a straight-up news story, you have to treat it a certain way," he said – or, rather, shouted to be heard above the din – on Wednesday evening, during the site's launch party at a crowded event space in downtown Toronto.

"I think it builds credibility in news. Doing some things that are familiar to people is probably a good way to go about building that."

BuzzFeed Canada's launch party was certainly a familiar scene. It felt surprisingly paint-by-numbers: A couple hundred young ad folk knocked back custom cocktails – "LOLemonades" (vodka and pink lemonade) and "WhiskeyTFs" (whisky, grenadine, sprite, fresh lemon and lime juice) – while shouting over bass-heavy Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor and Adele remixes. The party was sponsored by Toyota, which had set up a marketing "activation" in one corner of the room where, after a few drinks, people got behind the wheel – literally, a steering wheel they held out in front of them – and tried to pilot an animated Corolla along a twisting path. You could get the video e-mailed to you.

In another corner, giggling clusters of partygoers crammed themselves into a photo booth, where they held up custom-made Canadian versions of BuzzFeed's signature yellow icons (normally: "LOL" / "FAIL" / "OMG" etc.) that read, instead, "give'r," "eh?" "oui" and, of course, "sorry." They mugged for the camera, typed in their e-mail addresses and sent out the photos on Instagram – topped, naturally, with a Toyota logo – to their followers with the hashtag #buzzfeedcanada. (One pic, of a local YouTube star, garnered 42,000 likes.) It felt like an ad world bar mitzvah.

Until 2012, this was BuzzFeed's stock-in-trade: fun or compelling bits of ephemera – quizzes, .gifs, lists and photographic examples of outrageous life choices – designed to strike an emotional chord that would prompt people to share it with their Facebook friends. Its news ranks are still thin, even as it expands into more territories. With a Canadian audience for its global content already hovering around 12 million monthly unique users, it decided to make Canada its first international territory where it would start with an editorial operation alongside a "buzz" team.

Already, it has shown there are scoops to be found within its natural sweet spot of social news gathering. Last week, after Tim Hortons announced it would pull Enbridge ads from its in-house TV network and three Conservative politicians jumped on a hashtag urging people to boycott the coffee chain, BuzzFeed reporter Paul McLeod started digging around.

Working with Silverman, he discovered the hashtag had been initiated by Stephen Taylor, a political strategist who told McLeod he had worked for the PR firm FleishmanHillard, which is overseeing a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign for the oil sands. The scoop put BuzzFeed on the map in Ottawa.

"I think it was a good story, because it had an angle that nobody else had, and it showed we understand social media very well," Silverman said. "For me, it's a prototype of the kind of thing we want to do over and over again."