Three reasons Buzzfeed is changing everything we do

Why should you care that entertainment website Buzzfeed announced this week that it is expanding its UK commercial team? Because the real impact of the media brand and content model is far greater than its amusing stories. So here’s my take on it.

Ruth Mortimer

1. Buzzfeed does not follow the conventions of its own category. Unlike other media outlets, it does not produce journalistic headlines that present factual information clearly. Instead, it applies the rules of content marketing. Its headlines deliberately use urgent, emotionally charged language – “You Need To Know”, “The 33 Worst Things That Could Happen”, “10 Adorable Facts” and “You Have To See”.

The important point here is that Buzzfeed didn’t bother following the rules of its sector. It has applied a strategy from the world of marketing to the conventions of journalism and created a new style of product that now other media brands are scrambling to imitate. This may be possible in your own market if you are ready to think differently.

2. Buzzfeed has identified a new type of consumer behaviour and shaped its product around this. In this case, it has noted that many people feel so time poor, they want only snippets of content, which they can share immediately with friends. They are accessing these chunks of content on the move and on social networks.

Buzzfeed’s ‘listicle’ format is perfect for this. Buzzfeed’s lists, whether about current news such as the Olympics or more jokey content, deliver a hit of information and entertainment that can be absorbed in seconds.

The lesson here is that even those trends that may not appear to impact on you immediately may one day take your business by surprise. So make sure you understand how people are behaving and why, even if it doesn’t appear to affect you.

3. You don’t always have to create; you can also curate. Buzzfeed is a curator of content. It doesn’t create the images or information that so often form the central part of the story. But it assembles them so they are something new. It’s worth looking at your own market to see if you could do something similar. This might be a supermarket drawing together recipes or an alcohol business creating a digital cocktail mixing database.

That’s all three points. But I’m going to break the rules myself and mention one last thing. It is not just Buzzfeed out there doing brilliant things; if you are a brand exceeding expectations, we’ve extended the deadline, so you can enter our Engage Awards up to 21 February and tell the world: MarketingWeekAwards.co.uk.

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