BuzzFeed is social news and entertainment firm that focuses on digital media and digital technology to provide “the most shareable breaking news, original report and videos. This all American Media company based in NYC, was founded in 2006 as a viral lab, focusing on tracking viral content. Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, hired the company’s first data scientist in 2010, to predict how articles would go viral on the internet. Although Buzzfeed has advanced and now their canvas covers news, politics, business, tech, entertainment, food, international coverage and much more, reaching over 150 million unique visitors a month, they still think about the same question today. What is the best way to track content?
© Dao Nguyen, How BuzzFeed Thinks About Data, And Some Charts, Too. Retrieved from BuzzFeed on June 6, 2017.
How BuzzFeed uses other Platforms
On January 2015, CEO, Jonah Peretti started talking about BuzzFeed’ distributed strategy to internal teams. They diverted their attention from primarily website and apps to using social networks as a way to send traffic; they started aggressively publishing their content directly to platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat. In doing so, their monthly traffic reports tracking UV’s and page views became obsolete. Instead, they needed to come up with a different data to measure the overall reach and impact of the company since YouTube and FB don’t regularly provide UV’s to publishers. Thus, BuzzFeed started Re-anchoring its process, where they identify the ways they historically did things and questioned its relevance.
Today BuzzFeed teams in 11 countries publish content on over 30 Platforms in seven languages. They have become publishers that are charged with collecting and understanding all the attendant data; the task has become more complicated, more prone to error. Over the years BuzzFeed has kept its “one metric to rule them all”. To measure the overall reach of the company, they started looking at a combination of metrics that are available across platforms. With that being said, they do not use the same metrics to measure success on all platforms, videos, or for all their FB pages. This is the case because BuzzFeedtriesy to achieve different things with each platform and video/post type. This is also true with their advertisements. Each advertiser has its particular goals (e.g., maybe one is more interested in scale while another is more interested in DR), and metrics should reflect that.
When the impact is not quantifiable
BuzzFeed defines “impact” as something that reflects the real world, on a personal or institutional level. Examples of this from BuzzFeed’s articles:
- A Texas woman, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for failing to protect her son from her abusive boyfriend, even though she tried to stop the beating, was granted parole after being featured in a 2014 BuzzFeed News investigation.
- The U.N. Human Rights office and the NYC Human Resources Administration (the largest social services agency in the country) included our video “What It’s Like to Be Intersex” in its LGBTQI training.
- Their Snapchat edition dedicated to Muslim identity touched a lot of people. BuzzFeed claimed to received lots of tweets and this email: “I’m a Muslim girl living in Australia facing the hardship of trying to explain my religion to my friends and colleagues almost every day, and I always get called brainwashed for following my religion. Clicking on BuzzFeed today and seeing a whole series dedicated to Muslims… Words can’t start to explain how much that meant to me.”
You can measure some kinds of impact, but other types of impact are not quantifiable in the sense that you cannot say that one instance is larger than the other. Trying to do so diminishes the ability to make a difference and connect with people. BuzzFeed dedicates different pages and its recourses to share people’s stories with the world, and even though that kind of data cannot be measured, it definitely makes an impact. Check out this video by BuzzFeed News on Youtube as an example:
Lessons for Others
The main takeaway from BuzzFeed’s use of social media metrics is that the metrics should reflect what a company cares about, and how a company should choose its data that reflects what matters to them. BuzzFeed has adopted a global platform strategy and is always looking for new ways to understand and learn from the data. Other companies can see BuzzFeed’s success and perhaps put some thought into the way they analyse their data based on re-anchoring, creating content in new platforms, and perhaps taking note of the non-quantifiable impact they have on social media.
Industry: Technology and media
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Authored by: Huda Mohammed
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