US Republican Senator from Florida Marco Rubio speaks with BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith at the BuzzFeed Brews newsmaker event in Washington on Feb. 5, 2013.
Credit: Nicholas Kamm

LONDON, UK — “I’m 48. What’s the Buzzfeed?”

This, according to the UK tabloid the Daily Mail, was Prime Minister David Cameron’s reaction to mention of the popular news and entertainment site at a cocktail party last Christmas.

It looks like he’s figured it out since then.

On Monday, Britain’s leader will sit down for a live-streamed interview with Buzzfeed UK deputy editor Jim Waterson.

It’s the first international edition of Buzzfeed Brews, a series of informal and wide-ranging interviews that have elicited Sen. Marco Rubio’s thoughts on the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop beef and Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite milk. If they want one, both the interviewer and subject can have a beer.

“We suggested doing this livestream interview [to Cameron’s office] and they were very much for it,” Waterson said. “It’s not a wacky ‘we’re the people from the internet’ thing. We’re sitting down with the prime minister and will treat him like the prime minister.”

Cameron is the second head of state to submit to the site’s questions, following Buzzfeed’s interview with US President Barack Obama last month.

On Number 10’s end, the timing is no accident. The UK election is May 7. Although campaigns in Britain officially begin only five weeks before voting day, the battle for public opinion has already started.

More from GlobalPost: TV debates might be too American for UK elections

Like Obama, whose public relations strategy includes sitdowns with new media sites like Reddit and Vox, Cameron also appears to be reaching out to an audience beyond the decimated ranks of newspaper readers and network news viewers. 

He has access to Obama’s playbook: His Conservative Party has hired as its strategist Jim Messina, who managed Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Cameron’s office declined to elaborate on the strategy behind the interview.

“Obviously the Prime Minister engages with a variety of media outlets,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday.

He also wouldn’t verify that “What’s the Buzzfeed?” anecdote.

Cameron’s willingness to sit for the interview has raised eyebrows here, in light of his snubbing UK broadcasters’ invitation to debate head to head with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in advance of the election.

Broadcasters have invited Cameron to participate in three pre-election debates. He says he’ll do only one, a roundtable with leaders of the seven top parties.

A chat with Buzzfeed is a much less risky venture than a full-fledged debate, said James D. Boys, a senior research fellow at King’s College London and author of a book on the Clinton administration.

It’s a political truism for incumbents that “if you don’t need to debate, don’t debate,” Boys said. “If you’re the prime minister or president you’re used to having a certain stature. If you suddenly share that [with a debate partner], you elevate them and diminish yourself.”

Cameron likely sees Buzzfeed as a safe bet, he said.

“It will be a far softer interview than you will ever get from a main political interviewer on British national television,” Boys said.

Waterson disagrees. “Puff pieces don’t tend to work well online,” he said.

While first known as a purveyor of pet-themed listicles and similar content, Buzzfeed has invested heavily in its news division, expanding editorial staffs and hiring big-name journalists for their global news desks.

Buzzfeed UK’s editorial staff has grown from 12 people to more than 40 in the last 18 months, Waterson said. 

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