BuzzFeed: How It Works

On Thursday evening (23 June 2016) I had the pleasure of hearing from BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick, Deputy Global News Director and Ailbhe Malone, UK Lifestyle Editor. Ryan and Ailbhe provided an insight into how BuzzFeed works, how they select content and how to best build mutually beneficial relationships with journalists. The event was organise by PR Newswire.



Ryan Broderick, Deputy Global News Director of BuzzFeed speaking in the luscious surroundings of Two Temple Place, London

According to Ryan, the mission of BuzzFeed is to provide a slice of life, to take a human interest story in London and tell it in Spain or India (BuzzFeed has a huge team of translators). BuzzFeed aims at a very select slice of the population, which according to Ryan is essentially young women, and non-whites. The standing rule is DO NOT WRITE ABOUT OLD WHITE MALES – as they have more than enough news time. The most fruitful sources of BuzzFeed stories are obscure nerdy groups like women’s forums discussing Lush Bath Bombs. The BuzzFeed demographics are 60/40 in favour of women, but 80% of the sharing BuzzFeed stories on social media are re-posted by women. Therefore, the question BuzzFeed editors ask about a story is “what is the shareable moment”. The measure of the success of a story are: how long does a story last, and how many comments does it produce?

I confess: I haven’t spent a lot of time on BuzzFeed, and I had assumed that most of the stories were fabrications along the line of Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Cats. Talking to Ryan and Ailbhe, I realised that this is far from the truth. Ailbhe researched, wrote and produced the story on Lush Bath Bombs. She visited the factory, took part in the production line and interviewed the workers, dermatologists and other stakeholders in the story. The Lush Bath Bombs story took two months to produce, but by analysing all the facets, and bringing in experts, the story has been accessed for months and has had more than 500,000 views. To my mind, a story like this on BuzzFeed is closer to a Sunday Times magazine story.

Another surprise was how little content was generated from PR leads. Again, my assumption was that all the stories had a PR basis, and were only written to promote a product. However, according to BuzzFeed’s Deputy Global News Director, in the UK less than 10% of the stories were from PR promotions, and in the US it is only 5%. Overall, the event was a real eye-opener for me, and now I have more respect for BuzzFeed, even though I am not the target audience.


About Craig Jallal
A shipping analyst whose feels the need to comment on the industry.

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