As social media shifts the way we consume news, publishers have to be quick to the mark if they are to keep pace.
BuzzFeed Australia’s editor and speaker at Sydney’s Social Media Week next week, Simon Crerar, says BuzzFeed is changing to fit what’s happening online now. “We’re evolving into a media company for the social media age, where we are doing news for people around the world,” he says.
“Our audience is more than 50% under 30 and heavily on their mobile phones, a really young demographic that haven’t grown up with newspapers most of the time and are really wedded to digital products. As producers of content for those people we have to live in the same space as they do.
“I love newspapers, I grew up with newspapers,” he adds. “But the reality is the grain is shifting and people are consuming content in different ways now.” From this shift comes four learnings from the publishing giant on how to keep up.
1. Judge by sharing and not traffic
Who knows more about getting something to go viral than BuzzFeed? “Internally we’re judged on viral lift, rather than on overall traffic,” says Crerar. “Great if a story gets 100,000 views, but if most of the views just come from the home page it’s kind of like…
“Whereas if a post is getting only 20,000 views from the homepage of BuzzFeed but it’s got 80,000 views from social media, that’s really, really exciting, because it means that most of the people get that story through Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or whatever.”
2. Live inside the social webs
With Crerar believing Twitter has replaced the notebook, it’s time to cap those pens and reach instead for your smartphones.
“Most BuzzFeeders live in the ecosystem of the social web,” Crerar says, before reciting a plethora of possible sites where its demographic could be lurking. A lot of the time, the kind of news the BuzzFeed team reports is what they’ve found on the multitude of social media channels.
“What we write about are things that are happening on social media. We report what’s happening on social media. Like traditional journalists, we filter through the noise on social media and try and get to the heart of a particular story to verify it, check it out and take it on.”
3. There’s no one way to do content
While making sure they’re stuck good and hard into the social pages of the web, there isn’t one pure way BuzzFeed finds its info to pull into a list, article or quiz.
“There’s no one way of how we do content,” he says. “We have teams of people doing serious news around the world. The biggest part of our editorial team is what we call BuzzTeam who do the quizzes and lists and identity based content. Then we have people doing, what we call, viral news, which are the kind of things where something happens on Facebook, or other social media, and everyone goes crazy about it.
“The process of how you approach things is quite different, in terms of how you pull what’s going on in the world to you,” he says.
Something people may not realise about BuzzFeed, says Crerar, is that it also has a growing investigative team who work on much longer form pieces of content.
4. Personalise, personalise, personalise
Personalising content and making it relevant for the audience is crucial in this day and age. In its infancy, BuzzFeed discovered people share content for emotional reasons.
Having users tag content with an ‘OMG’ or ‘WTF’ badge helped BuzzFeed tap into those emotional drivers to personalise and make content relevant.
“Part of what we discovered in that phase was the emotional drivers for why people share content,” says Crerar. “It’s stuff that really applies to them that in one way or another, is talking to their sense of identity and who they are, where they grew up or a particular thing that makes them nostalgic about the past or something in the present that makes them proud, or happy or sometimes annoyed or frustrated.”
If you fancy finding out the secrets behind the publishing giant’s ability to get content into every corner of the internet, Crerar is revealing a couple of titbits at Sydney’s Social Media Week. And just because you read this post you get 20% of tickets. Use the promo code SMWPARTNER20 and grab tickets before they’re all gone.