Getting Your Daily Dose of BuzzFeed
Viral news = BuzzFeed, there’s no other way to see it or so it is implied by the 200 plus million unique visitors they get each month. Oh, and their quizzes? Major crowd magnet. Need an analysis on the baffling ending to HBO’s The Game of Thrones or want to find out which of Marvel’s Avenger you are? BuzzFeed’s writers have curated articles and the tests to sate your curiosity. So, who are they and why are they so good at what they do – a.k.a. reel you in like a fish that won’t let go of the bait…
How It Began
2006 was the year Californian Jonah Peretti and his Huffington Post supervisor John S. Johnson III’s idea of collating viral content for the world came to fruition. What started off as a side project that relied solely on algorithms to glean content that showed signs of pandemonium earned approximately USD$300 million just this year (2019). Peretti’s prior role as a director of research & development at Johnson’s art and technology company (based in New York), OpenLab at Eyebeam allowed him to test out various viral media content which provided the base for BuzzFeed.
To start with, BuzzFeed was known as BuzzFeed Laboratories while Peretti was still bringing home the bacon from Huffington Post. Scriveners weren’t on the payroll and it was just computers scouring the web for content. Today, BuzzFeed has over 1,300 employees around the world and 18 offices. They still rely heavily on technology to speed churn their products – for example, Techcrunch states that Vidder(a video editing software) is used to create around 200 videos each month by 40-50 team members. A single member of the team had created a compilation video that hit 1.1 million shares.
How It Evolved
They didn’t just stick with sharing viral content. Peretti got a team together and they proceeded to expand not only their number of employees and audiences, but also profits and credibility. Their now multilevel cross platform is comprised of BuzzFeed Originals (the infamous quizzes and listicles plus viral videos); BuzzFeed Media Brands (Goodful and Tasty – the latter is claimed to be the biggest social network on a global scale); BuzzFeed Studios (original content) and BuzzFeed News (reports and information collated by their investigative journalists).
To date, BuzzFeed has over 15 investors (Crunchbase) which includes the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, RRE Ventures, Hearst Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. Though they have relied on fundraisings previously, Peretti made a decision to layoff over 15% of his workforces, citing that he wanted to make Buzzfeed’s revenues into profits without having to round up more funding.
How It Thrives
In an age where we are increasingly disconnected (albeit connected), BuzzFeed’s content relates to its audience on a personal level to the point where they feel the need to share the content with their friends. They employ the use of emotional appeal and with an organic keyword position skyrocketing them to the top of the traffic search (28.41%, higher than The Game of Thrones’ 8.32%.), it is a strategy that evidently works well. Besides being the first, they’ve also claimed the fourth spot with ‘BuzzFeed Quizzes’. Most of its social media traffic is generated by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube; accounting for a 23.46% of its total traffic sources. On a global scale, BuzzFeed.com ranks number 431 (SimiliarWeb) with over 44% of their audience coming from the United States.
Think that’s not significant? Well, as of January 2019, Netcraft’s Web Server Survey managed to pin down a number: 1,518,207,412. That’s the estimated number of websites on the world wide web.
On a more serious tone, its journalistic venture has turned heads. Spearheaded by former Politico’s Ben Smith since 2011, the digital publication has gone to catch the attention of the political world with the publishing of the Donald Trump-Russia dossier. In fact, within the same day, BuzzFeed sent out a 35-page dossier that has since been widely read. Criticism was thrown their way, but Smith staunchly stood by the publication’s decision. Their audacity and unapologetic thoroughness have garnered them accolades and recognitions (National Magazine Award, National Press Foundation Awards, Sidney Award, George Polk Award amongst others). The journalists were even finalists for Pulitzer Prizes.
All in all, the minds behind BuzzFeed know what buttons to push to catch your interest. They’re visually appealing and with the short attention span of the upcoming generations, they’re able to generate snackable content that you will want to go through.