At the Thought-Leading™ Aspen Ideas Festival last week, Jon Steinberg — CEO of the Daily Mail in North America, former president of Buzzfeed, and all-around cat-friendly guy — positively implored his audience to stop treating cats as some kind of Internet mascot.
“It is more than cats!” The Atlantic’s Megan Garber paraphrased. “It is more than GIFs!”
Both Garber and Steinberg are, of course, making highbrow, metaphorical commentaries on the role of whimsy and entertainment in media. But let’s put all that side. The Internet is, indeed, more than cats. These days we’d like to think it’s all about … goats.
Yes, indeed: You heard it here first. Goats are the new cats. Cats are the old goats. The Internet has a new mascot, and I for one am psyched to rally under his bleating banner.
Let’s recap the sheer number of goats who have gone viral in recent months. There was Frostie, the sickly Australian snow goat who learned to walk with the help of a wheelchair. Then there was Gary, the GoPro-wearing muse/sidekick of comedian Jimbo Bazoobi, who somehow has nearly 730,000 fans on Facebook. (His schtick, not to oversimplify it, is basically just the goat.) Then there were the many fascinations of /r/goatparkour, a Reddit forum devoted to kids cavorting like deranged freerunners and the alleged “best thing online” — only rivaled, in truth, by “goat remixes,” a phenomenon that must be seen to be believed.
Now, in a transparent attempt to loan these upstart goats some old-media credibility, NPR has boldly named its latest blog … “Goats and Soda.” (They’re claiming the name relates to common sights in Africa, but we can read the tea leaves: Goats are big in 2014, and NPR is #onit.)
Alas, even with their newfound fame, goats can’t quite topple cats from their perch atop the Internet cliche totem bowl — which seems unfair, frankly, given the world population of goats (roughly 860 million) versus cats (600 million). Perhaps this has something to do with the West’s centuries’-old fascination with cats. Or perhaps it’s because cats occasionally do things like get stuck inside Chinese take-out containers, and goats by and large do not.
Jack Shephard, the cat-owning gentleman atop Buzzfeed’s “Cute Animals” vertical, has another theory entirely: It’s all a media conspiracy. Of course!
“I’ve had occasion to contemplate these theories a good deal,” Shepherd wrote in The Guardian last March. He continues:
And, having looked at the data, which reveals that readers are just as likely to search for things about dogs as they are to search for things about cats, I’ve grown partial to another, somewhat less fanciful, theory, which is that those of us who write about animals on the internet have unquestioningly bought into the cat hype and are perpetuating it. There is actually no good reason why cats should gain more traction online than dogs, or indeed any other animal.
Good job, goats. You win this round.