Jonah Peretti created Buzzfeed in 2006 merely as a ‘viral lab’ side project. Known primarily for its gifs and memes, it has since expanded drastically to investigative journalism, a bureau for foreign news, set in over 10 countries around the world. According to a study conducted in April 2015, Buzzfeed currently has over 900 employees, 200 million unique visitors per month and an average of 1 billion video views per month.With such staggering statistics, it comes as no surprise that Buzzfeed is one of the most successful websites in use today.
But just how did they do it?
Buzzfeed certainly didn’t invent the concept of ‘listicles’ or quizzes, but since its launch, it has undoubtedly changed the digital landscape significantly. It goes without saying that whatever Buzzfeed is doing, works wonders. Many sites have been found to imitate their style, primarily with the inclusion of lists such as “25 things you may have forgotten about the Internet”, which was published by The Guardian.
Cracking Buzzfeed’s code to success.
When looking at the statistics, it is instantly apparent that there is something markedly different about Buzzed news. Buzzed editors claim that Buzzfeed’s secret is emotional connection and data. Together they predict behaviour.
“It’s not just funny”, says the editor in chief, Ben Smith, “If you want to be the central organisation of the central communications platform of the social-web era, a lot of the emotionally compelling content that people share is news, not just funny. You want to do both”.
It is crystal clear that they are choosing to build the defining news and Entertainment Company up for a more social, mobile age. Buzzfeed President and COO Jon Steinberg explained how Buzzfeed’s focus is to become the go-to news source for the younger generation and have no desire to be on the same playing field as news competitors. “Young people really have no media that is their own”, he says.
Measurement and Mobile Compatibility boost your Content Strategy
If there’s a science to Buzzfeed’s content strategy, it is built on measurement that is specific to almost obsessive proportions. Data science teams leverage machine learning to predict which stories are more likely to spread.
The design team contributes by iterating the user interface by means of A/B testing. In this way, they have come up with an almost foolproof way of producing content that is sure to get people hitting that share button. Basing layouts and content on data collected has been key to spread further and further.
The Buzzed data dashboard shows seed views and how many times the content is shared. If the data-analytics tools measure that headlines aren’t working, they rewrite it. According to Peretti this measurement is very important: “We see most social traffic now from mobile, so if your site doesn’t work well on mobile, it guarantees that nothing you do will be shared”.
Buzzfeed has also managed to succeed at having content double as advertising, with an average click-through rate (CTR) between between 0.5% and 2.5%. They have also syndicated their sponsored posts and adverts with other publications. These forms of advertising are undoubtedly transparent, however, it seems to be working for Buzzfeed, with 49% of media buyers saying they would make further purchases.
Writers are acutely aware that it’s all about sharing and less about views. They are also aware that in this day and age, it would be irresponsible to disregard social media and its power over consumers. They have come up with ways to target social networks and Buzzed seems to play a key role.
A method commonly used is that of targeting the platform directly. In order to get overwhelming attention from Instagram users, it seems only logical to write interesting articles about Instagram itself. The asme pattern can be seen on Facebook and most other platforms.
Video is still King
Arguably, however, the key to their rapid increase in popularity is their mastery of video. Despite having generated over 8 billion views across the board, it is interesting to note that only 5% of those views came from buzzfeed.com itself. The majority of views are generated from Youtube, with impressive levels of engagement being reached on Facebook.
The benefits of adding videos to your site are numerous, possibly the strongest ones being that it is an effortless way to deliver your message in a crystal clear way, it entertains, drives traffic, engages customers and encourages regular visits to your site, provided the quality is high. What else could you possibly ask for?
In truth, Buzzfeed is one of the largest and most influential news and entertainment sites on the web today, with scores of reporters, writers and bloggers all contributing to the creation and production of ambitious and creative work.
Any company would do well to take a leaf out of their book. When it comes to their success, in a nutshell, Viral Today’s editor in Chief says “It’s not just about numbers, it’s being a part of the conversation”. If you’re looking to be part of the conversation and extend your content reach then Buzzfeed could be a good place to start.