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52 Things You Didn't Know About BuzzFeed

With 150 million unique monthly visitors, BuzzFeed has skyrocketed in popularity since 2011.

In our quest to better understand what makes BuzzFeed tick, we read hundreds of articles, interviews, presentations, and blog posts about the company.

Research for this presentation was compiled using NoteShow, a social knowledge network that allows companies to share their insights in real-time.

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52 Things You Didn't Know About BuzzFeed

  1. 52 Things You Didn’t Know About
  2. Vital Stats Began as “BuzzFeed Labs” in 2006 while founder Jonah Peretti was at Huffington Post. Peretti left Huffington Post in 2011 to work on BuzzFeed full-time. The site has roughly 150 million unique visitors each month and is projecting $120M in revenue. USA Today
  3. Humble Beginnings
  4. The Independent 1 In 2001, Jonah Peretti tried to buy shoes with the word “sweatshop” embroidered on them. Nike rejected the order and their email response went viral. This experience made Peretti interested in learning how things go viral online.
  5. "There wasn't Facebook or YouTube or Twitter, but I was able to reach millions of people purely by making something that spread through this decentralized network, where there was no gatekeeper -- it just spread on its own.” Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO Wired UK 2
  6. In 2005, Jonah Peretti co- founded The Huffington Post where he was responsible for spreading content on the web. Using rudimentary analytics tools he could see which headlines weren't working and had another staffer - Andrew Breitbart - rewrite them. Wired UK 3
  7. New York Magazine Jonah Peretti piloted elements of BuzzFeed's growth strategy while at The Huffington Post. His "mullet strategy" involves junky, high traffic content in the back to drive page views, with more serious, less-trafficked content on the site's front page. 4
  8. Thanks in large part to Peretti’s traffic wizardry, The Huffington Post had 30 million monthly unique visitors when it was sold in 2011. These days, Huff Po sees about 50 million visitors a month, only 1/3 of BuzzFeed’s traffic. 5 USA Today
  9. "It was interesting, but not as satisfying to make content for search… Instead of making content that the robots like, it was more satisfying to make content that humans want to share.” Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO Wired UK 6
  10. BuzzFeed got its start summarizing trends on the web, posting only four times a day. Today, they publish four hundred items daily, originating much of the content from their own correspondents. Venture Village 7
  11. BuzzFeed’s Viral Philosophy
  12. Chris Dixon Blog 8 BuzzFeed has taken a non-traditional approach to content distribution that almost exclusively relies upon social sharing instead of print or broadcast channels.
  13. Scribd 9Jonah Peretti realized that the number of people bored at work is far larger than any traditional media company's audience. This “Bored at Work Network” (BWN) is a top target for BuzzFeed’s content.
  14. AllThingsD 10 BuzzFeed relies on passionate “maniacs” as keys to viral sharing. If you can tap into an audience of "crazy people" it will help you spread your content.
  15. Content is more viral if it lets people express their personality disorders. BuzzFeed finds that narcissistic items do well on Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. People with OCD tendencies enjoy Wikipedia, online games, and comments. Scribd 11
  16. BuzzFeed data scientists take cues from the study of biology - specifically how quickly viruses replicate. They can tell what's working within an hour and use that info to promote on social channels or feature on the front page. Contently 12
  17. New York Magazine Contrary to some theories that celebrities and super influencers are the reason why content goes viral, BuzzFeed believes content becomes most popular when shared among small groups. 13
  18. New York Magazine 14 BuzzFeed sees that readers will share content with their friends if the content “helps them promote their own identity,” even if that content is in the form of a native advertisement for a brand.
  19. SlideShare 15 BuzzFeed uses a formula called “ViralRank” to determine in real time what content is being shared. By charting the “Viral Multiplier Effect,” BuzzFeed’s technology can optimize promotion of content that is spreading most rapidly.
  20. SlideShare 16 Jonah Peretti says content producers should be more like Mormons (in green) than Jews. Evangelism is a core piece of Mormonism. Focusing on how an idea spreads can be more important than the idea itself.
  21. BuzzFeed’s Technology
  22. New York Magazine 17In BuzzFeed's early days, editorial was partially driven by tracking pixels that were placed on dozens of sites. These pixels determined which articles had the greatest likelihood of virality and the most popular of these articles were then featured on BuzzFeed.
  23. Chris Dixon’s Blog 18 BuzzFeed has built their entire technology stack from scratch including their own content management system, analytics and servers. They believe this investment provides a measurable performance advantage compared to off- the-shelf solutions.
  24. SlideShare In redesigning their public dashboard, BuzzFeed followed "Six S's" to focus on the user. Now the platform is faster, less effort to interact with and easier to share. 19 The Six S’s Simplicity - reduce complexity Satisfy - create excitement around BuzzFeed Speedify - make app feel fast and realtime Solidify - make app feel more solid and stable Sharify - bookmarkable/linkable pages Superiorify - iterate UI with testing & metrics
  25. BuzzFeed uses data from social APIs to determine what people care about and how much coverage a subject receives. They use that info to determine what content to post. 20 Contently
  26. Chris Dixon’s Blog Despite their heavy investment in technology, BuzzFeed also employs an editorial team that writes, produces, and curates content around different verticals. This hybrid technology + editorial business model is rare within venture-backed startups. 21
  27. Reuters BuzzFeed's CMS is specifically optimized for the BuzzFeed network and would likely not be as useful on other sites. 22
  28. Poynter BuzzFeed's technology teams work hand-in-hand with editorial staff to make tweaks that optimize the reach of their content. Cheering is heard from the weekly meetings between the product and content teams. 23
  29. BuzzFeed Tech Editor Charlie Warzel notes that BuzzFeed’s CMS has "changed substantively nearly every week" since he's started working there. 24
  30. Distribution
  31. “Sharing will continue to be the primary distribution mechanism of content online. So if you are a digital publisher, and you're looking to reach a bigger audience, ask yourself if the content you're creating is designed to be shared. If not, welcome to the world of Sisyphus.” Will Hayward, VP Advertising iMedia Connection 25
  32. The Drum BuzzFeed's creative director says the model of creating content in traditional media is too heavily focused on creation and doesn't consider how content is distributed. BuzzFeed splits time 50/50 between what the content says vs. how and where to say it. 26
  33. Chris Dixon’s Blog At Peretti’s previous employer, The Huffington Post, article summaries often generated more page views than the article themselves as they provided enough information to satisfy a user without requiring them to read the entire article. 27
  34. The Independent BuzzFeed is designed to avoid the standard "front page" of a newspaper where the news is neatly presented. Instead, BuzzFeed creates content that purposely resonates with select audiences, versus trying to be everything to everyone. 28
  35. The Drum BuzzFeed intentionally uses nostalgia to activate users. Creative Director Philip Byrne says it's a great way to tell a story about yourself via your online presence. 29
  36. The Independent BuzzFeed's lists are designed to be mobile- friendly and social- friendly. 50% of traffic comes from mobile devices and 75% of clicks come from social sharing. 30
  37. New York Times BuzzFeed has hired several notable journalists, including Ben Smith from Politico as Editor-in-Chief. This investment in journalistic talent is designed to produce breaking news stories that are shared by millions. 31
  38. Content Beyond Kittens
  39. Nieman Lab Quizzes were identified as a potential new media type for BuzzFeed after they conducted a year-end analysis of what content drove the most shares and it ended up being a quiz entitled, "Which Grease Pink Lady Are You?" 32
  40. Nieman Lab "What City Should You Actually Live In?" became one of BuzzFeed's most popular quizzes with more than 20 million views. 33
  41. Techcrunch Not unlike other media produced by BuzzFeed, quizzes are available for sponsorship by brands like HBO. The "How Would You Die in Game of Thrones"? quiz generated more than 1 million views and 75,000 Facebook shares for HBO. 34
  42. NiemanLab Nearly 70% of all of BuzzFeed’s quiz traffic comes from mobile devices. Managing Editorial Director Summer Anne Burton thinks this might be because people pass their phones around - transforming the quiz from digital to real-world social content. 35
  43. Summer Anne Burton, Managing Editorial Director Nieman Lab “The quiz is kind of like the broken-down- to-its-core of what BuzzFeed is — it gives someone something that they can relate to well enough that they can share it with others.” 36
  44. Techcrunch In addition to quizzes, BuzzFeed has created a new team dedicated to the creation of games. Instead of competing with large game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, the team will partner with BuzzFeed's editorial group to "pursue cool ideas". 37
  45. VentureBeat BuzzFeed's VP of Product, Chris Johanesen, explained the company's rationale for pursuing games is to shift the audience's relationship with content from consumption to engagement - similar to how readers currently engage with BuzzFeed's quizzes. 38
  46. Fortune BuzzFeed recently announced the creation of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, a video- specific team that will create highly shareable video content. This team of 100 employees has produced nearly 2,000 videos with 27% eclipsing 1 million views each. 39
  47. Fortune Beyond the shorter videos that BuzzFeed Motion Pictures has produced, they are now starting to explore "serializing content and creating mid-range series for release on the Web broadly". 40
  48. Fortune BuzzFeed is also experimenting with more direct collaborations with artists - including Jordan Peele (from Key & Peele) - by applying their data- driven approach to more "traditional" media. 41
  49. Hollywood Reporter BuzzFeed says it will not engage in the traditional ways of Hollywood where new ideas are pitched by writers and rejected by BuzzFeed. They want to encourage people to bring them ideas without fear of rejection like typical studios operate. 42
  50. Hollywood Reporter BuzzFeed's Michael Shamberg explains their video team will encourage experimentation with different types of shows or scripts that wouldn't normally get green-lit in Hollywood. 43
  51. Hollywood Reporter BuzzFeed's video team has three divisions focused on different content types: 44 Video (short-form content) Live Development (mid-length serialized content) Future of Fiction (long-form film, tv or transmedia content)
  52. BuzzFeed's impressive technology and existing expertise in producing lifestyle and entertainment content will help accelerate the growth of their new video team by using data and viewer feedback to optimize future content. 45 Hollywood Reporter
  53. Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy Fortune "We understand our audience and shareable, creative video; and the brand understands the brand and brand message, and when you combine those two together is really great shareable content.” 46
  54. Agency of the Future?
  55. New York Magazine Instead of depending on advertising agencies to create campaigns designed for social sharing, Jonah Peretti says they are building "the agency of the future for a social world.” 47
  56. Chris Dixon’s Blog Instead of banner ads or optimizing for search enginges, BuzzFeed monetizes their traffic through native advertising that drives users to a single article. 48
  57. New York Magazine On average, BuzzFeed's native advertising posts are receiving three shares for every ten paid views. 49
  58. Advertisers only pay for views created by BuzzFeed itself through promoted posts. Views generated from the virality of the content are free to the advertiser. New York Magazine 50
  59. New York Magazine Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed’s former President, said that their production of branded, native advertising content is analogous to the early days of television where networks would produce branded shows partially because ad agencies were incapable of understanding television as a new medium. 51
  60. New York Magazine Even with all of BuzzFeed’s success, some advertising agencies are highly skeptical of the branded content that BuzzFeed produces because it's not "ownable by the brand.” 52
  61. NOTESHOW.COM /noteshow Icons from flaticon users Freepik, Icons8, Daniel Bruce, SimpleIcon, Icomoon, Designmodo, Elegant Themes, Catalin Fertu Research for this presentation was compiled using NoteShow, a social knowledge network that allows companies to share their insights in real-time. Information in this presentation was organized using canva.com