April 2014

Buzzfeed has generated a lot of interest since it launched quietly in the UK in March 2013.
Luke Lewis, UK editor, shared his thoughts on what makes a good story, and how the site works.

Almost feel I should try to write the rest of this post in Buzzfeed style……. 13 tips to change your life…… or something. Bit contrived though – so key points follow, plus some tips.

Their aim is to create content that people want to share.
Majority of views come via sharing, majority of those come from Facebook
UK reported audience of around 16 million. This is between 10-20% of global audience
Popular content tends to the slightly bizarre, quirky. Tend to have a number in the headline, and be highly visual.
They don’t have online galleries that you have to click through – images all displayed at once.
N0 display advertising, page is clean and images take centre stage.

Make content shareable

  • Eg set of photos from Russia: add some context, which brings the story to an audience previously not interested or engaged.
  • In many cases, authors can just let the images do the work.
  • The Buzzfeed CMS was built to facilitate making lists.
  • Central team does commission content from mainstream journalists, eg Daniel Knowles who writes for the Economist. It was interesting to compare his usual style with a list format – in this case on house prices. Leads to a different sort of engagement.
  • Shareable means mobile friendly. That’s a big element of things going viral.
  • Also – remember the Buzzfeed community. Anyone can create a profile and contribute content. Note: its very easy to get it wrong. Don’t try too hard to be “buzzfeedy”. It is possible to cover serious topics in a different way. Not everything has to have a cat gif.

Be alert to hoaxes
Luke shared the recent example of a photo which claimed to be of a snake that had swallowed a person – turned out not to be true. Plus photos of snow in Egypt. Debunking viral things can actually be quite viral.

Use humour
Always be alert to the humorous angle. But as already said, you can use the Buzzfeed format to shed a different perspective on serious topics.

Use data
Look at the tools people use, look at how stuff gets shared. Buzzfeed monitor where readers are coming from, what they do once on the site. The vast majority of their views come via Facebook.

Care about the headlines
Headlines are the bait to draw readers in. The Buzzfeed CMS has option of testing two or three headlines to see which works best. Some sort of early testing is always worth doing even informally among colleagues.

Think visually
Echoes comments made above – look for new ways of shedding a different perspective on a topic.

NOTE: Some things never change. Some of their stories come about through traditional reporting, those skills don’t change.

Haven’t published a blog for ages, which is definitely not a reflection of lack of activity. I’ve attended some thought provoking events, read some inspiring stories of progress in the digital world, and have made some not unsubstantial steps in my own work.
However, all of the notes, thoughts and experiences have never made it here – which has actually become a minor source of annoyance (for me!) Hadn’t realised how much I use my own blog as a diary and aide memoire for people and things, until I stopped producing it…… so here goes, back with renewed intent, I plan to publish a short series of notes and write ups – some long overdue, covering:

  • digital in government (definitions, progress of others)
  • digital in DFID (digital panel, digital event, thoughts on capability building)
  • networks (Whitehall and Industry Group, More Tea Vicar)
  • events (visit to vodafone campus)
  • and the odd noteworthy presentation I’d like to store up to refer to again (Buzzfeed).

And this post serves as an aide memoire to that intention!