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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged Buzzfeed

Jessica Davies:

BuzzFeed’s shift to video is taking hold in its U.K. operations. The digital media company is doubling the size of its London office so it can house two new studios with a particular focus on sponsor video.

The goal: to bring all video production made on behalf of U.K. advertisers in-house.

So, it’s all ads rather than editorial video – but it’s a telling sign of how important video is becoming to monetising content. And another step in Buzzfeed’s shift towards video.

Buzzfeed is restructuring by splitting into entertainment and news divisions. CEO Jonah Peretti makes an interesting point:

Having a single ‘video department’ in 2016 makes about as much sense as having a ‘mobile department.’ Instead of organizing around a format or technology, we will organize our work to take full advantage of many formats and technologies.”

Video has become so prevalent in both news and entertainment, and developed so many different forms, that a single video department makes little sense any more. The language and techniques used to produce reporting dn explainer videos are very different from short comedy, or cooking clips.

In fact, it makes as little sense as having a “writing department”.

[via Emily Jane Fox, Vanity Fair]

Buzzfeed has a social media verification team:

BuzzFeed Canada editor and First Draft Coalition member Craig Silverman will be leading the charge from Toronto, “bringing his deep expertise at debunking hoaxes to our reporting arsenal,” said Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s head of international growth, “and acting as a resource for all BuzzFeed editions, as well as a watchdog on behalf of our readers worldwide.”

That’s a set of skills that every newsroom should have – but which large newsrooms should also support with a dedicated team. The big challenge, of course, is getting the debunking and correction of false material on social media out to the audience as quickly as possible:

Sensational or salacious lies have always been more interesting than the stone dry truth, but two recent studies put the reality of online rumours into stark relief. Researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of Indiana found it takes more than 12 hours for a false claim to be debunked online, on average, giving it an almost insurmountable headstart.

If the Buzzfeed team can tighten that up, that would be a useful public service.

Old media is buying its way into new media, again, with NBCUniversal throwing cash at Buzzfeed and Vox Media:

BuzzFeed, meanwhile, is expected to be worth $1.5 billion after its NBCU investment, which multiple sources say is also $200 million — not the $250 million we had previously reported.

Some interesting figures when compared with the leaked costs from earlier.

And as for Vox:

The media giant is investing $200 million in Vox Media, at a pre-money valuation of $850 million, according to several sources. Which is another way of saying Vox Media is now worth more than $1 billion, after raising around $300 million altogether.

Remind me again how there’s no money in digital?

Gawker claims to have got ahold of Buzzfeed’s books:

Editorial budget

If accurate – it shows the remarkable speed at which the site is growing – and that it’s staying profitable despite the cost surges.

Some interesting analysis from Jean-Louis Gassée, too:

Regarding “real revenue, growing, moderate cash use,” he wrote in an email to Gawker, “the company is, as accountants say, a ‘going concern,’ it has cash to last several years. Perhaps forever, meaning some day, revenue is large enough to provide positive cash flow from operations and, voilà, you have a real, autonomous business.”

Mobile not snails

Possibly the most depressing paragraph I’ve read in a long time:

Speaking on the panel at the launch of the report in London, the Guardian’s executive editor of digital Aron Pilhofer said “mobile has snuck up” on publishers and it is a platform that they “have only recently started to take seriously.”

While I understand that many of them were burnt by the WAP era of phones, where people desperately tried to persuade us that this was the future of the internet – and it very clearly wasn’t – there’s little excuse for not realising by 2010 that the iPhone and Android were transformative mobile experiences that were rapidly building traffic share. This is the web all over again – publishers miss a transformation, and struggle to catch up.

We keep getting attacked by the snails

The original sin of mobile

If there’s an original sin of mobile, it was the assumption that mobile was what people did when they were away from their desks. I can’t count the number of meetings or workshops where I’ve been confronted by that idea. And it was always false, it’s just becoming ever more provably so.

But, for a while, it completely distracted corporate decision makers, who did most of their reading on desktop screens, and whose sense of the mobile internet was defined by their corporate BlackBerry – a status symbol for many that blinded them to the revolution their less prestigious staff were experiencing.

Now, of course, most are aware that that BlackBerry is in pretty serious trouble, and that the mobile web is closing in on – or exceeding – 50% of publisher site traffic. We’re in a mobile-dominant world. They can’t ignore it any more.

And, indeed, finally, some publishers are taking the transition really seriously:

Starting Monday, The New York Times will temporarily bar employees inside its Manhattan headquarters from accessing the desktop homepage in an effort to emphasize the importance of mobile devices.

Excellent move – force staff who’ve got too accustomed to sitting at their desk at their desktop computer to experience the site as the majority (or close to it) of their users do.

Buzzfeed competes for your precious notification attention

The importance of the mobile web is without question; what remains more open to challenge is the role of mobile apps in news. Buzzfeed are taking a serious punt at making an app that works – but are relying heavily on notifications to make that vision come true. One of the two buttons on the app’s home screen is devoted to configuring them:

Buzzfeed news

This addresses the major issue of news apps to date: nobody bloody opens them. We install them, play with them, and then forget about them. We just go back to getting our news via social networks instead.

Because the Buzzfeed app really encourages you to go look at the Notification settings, turn them on, and choose the news you want (in a pretty US-centric way right now), it has a fair chance of actually holding people’s attention. The trick will be in creating the right frequency and interest level within those notifications to keep people coming back to the app without annoying them enough that they uninstall it.

This is a nuance that many publishers will probably miss – it’s not just being on a device that matters, it’s finding a way of competing with the video apps and the games and the social media apps to actually spend some time open and in use. And that’s a tough fight. Notifications are the next platform – and the battle for news attention will probably be fought on them.

Ben Smith, Buzzfeed’s editor in chief:

Indeed, the strongest new news outlets and the most nimble elements of the old ones have also co-opted and professionalized the tools and ethos of bloggers — fast, direct publishing; an informal voice; a commitment to transparency. We’ve pulled in some of the adaptable stars of that era. And we believe those people, tools, and values can serve our unchanging commitments to immediate, well-told, fearless, compelling, and independent journalism.

Nice piece, which really clarifies that the blogosphere (and how long is it since I last wrote that word*?) of the mid-2000s is long dead, but blogging itself has inserted itself deeply into the DNA of today’s innovative web publishing.

**A quarter of a decade, as it turns out.*

There’s a rather famous graph of Buzzfeed’s traffic kicking around. I’ve used it a bunch of times in lectures and training, and it looks like this:

facebook-google-buzzfeed-referral-traffic.png

There’s a crucial point where the Google referral traffic drops sharply for a while. Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed founder and CEO, has talked about what happened to Buzzfeed’s search traffic:

As it turned out, it was an error on Google’s end. It took Peretti about a month to track down the right people at Google (he name-checked Google’s head of search quality at the time, Matt Cutts). Google saw that BuzzFeed was embedding widgets from a related domain it owned, apparently for traffic management purposes. Google assumed it was malware being injected into BuzzFeed, Peretti said, and gave BuzzFeed a penalty.

Whoops. But while Buzzfeed was trying to sort it out, it also started focussing on social traffic:

By the time the error was resolved, BuzzFeed had shifted direction. Rather than try to balance content aimed to do well with both social and search, BuzzFeed was forced to focus entirely on social to get through the search slump — and it kept that focus going forward.

The whole story is at least somewhat indicative of the increasing split between content that works well for search – things that answer questions or inform – and those which perform well for social – stuff that’s amusing, or informatively entertaining. It’s hard to optimise for both these situations – so sometimes you’re forced into choosing.

Peretti also talks about some of these issues in a recent podcast:

Dan Barker’s been poking at the tracking javascript on Buzzfeed, and found some very interesting data being captured from quizzes:

In other words, if I had access to the BuzzFeed Google Analytics data, I could query data for people who got to the end of the quiz & indicated – by not checking that particular answer – that they have had an eating disorder. Or that they have tried to change their gender.

Online quizzes: just a bit of harmless fun, right? Right?