return Home

BuzzFeed editor on publishing for the social age

When BuzzFeed was founded back in 2006, Jonah Peretti’s idea was to “aggregate stuff that people liked to share on the web”, founding editor of BuzzFeed Deutschland, Juliane Leopold, told the audience today at the Digital Innovators’ Summit.

In its inception, BuzzFeed’s website organisation focused on aggregated shared content, but not so much on creating content. Since then it has been constantly growing, launching BuzzFeed News in 2012 and Buzz Life in 2014, covering all things parenting, cooking, gardening and home, as well as giving its video vertical “the front seat”, as Leopold put it. 

BuzzFeed and emotion go hand-in-hand

BuzzFeed’s yellow buttons that sit at the top of the homepage are known to everyone, but they are a representation of what the company has understood about media and sharing. “Sharing is about emotions and emotions and virality go together”, Leopold said. 

They reach over 175m monthly uniques, 50 per cent of which are 18-34 year olds. According to Leopold, “we don’t publish something that doesn’t work for mobile because it will not succeed” and this is why 50 per cent of BuzzFeed’s traffic is mobile and growing.

Once on BuzzFeed’s side, it won’t let you go

75 per cent of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from social sources and Leopold shared that the philosophy behind is that “we want to offer people a mix of contagiousness and stickiness, as content needs to reach people and stir their emotions”.

With a large social media footprint, BuzzFeed has over 500m monthly video views, over 9m YouTube subscribers and its latest effort was producing BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which will produce longer videos than the ones currently available.

In terms of comparing with other companies, Leopold said that “we don’t want to be The New York Times and it’s okay not to be The New York Times”.

The ‘bored at work’ network

BuzzFeed’s yellow reaction buttons also represent the smallest expression of an emotion. A topic frequently mentioned is content revolving around cats, which Leopold said “is a thing because it makes you feel good” when you’ve had a bad day, whether you’re a cat person or not. 

Founder Jonah Peretti coined a phrase which encompasses the company’s ethos: “We are catering for the ‘bored at work network’, the largest network in the world”.

What do people love to share?

On the assumption that people don’t use BuzzFeed for serious news, Leopold gave the example of their “Battered, bereaved and behind bars” article, which was shared over 10,000 times on Facebook. “In Germany, people love to share articles about topics such as homophobia and racism because it sparks outrage and discussion”, she added.

People share content that they can identify with, which makes them feel recognised, relevant and teaches them about other people’s identities. Posts such as “19 moments in which Google Translate didn’t really help you” was shared 20,000 times on Facebook and that kind of content works because “you get people to say - hey, this is my life and somebody has understood it”, said Leopold. 

She also mentioned that another thing that sparks virality is a call for action and posts such as “The dress”, which currently has over 38m views worldwide, is the kind of question that divides people and connects them because “even if it doesn’t matter to them, they’ll still have an opinion on it”, according to Leopold. 

What does Buzzfeed do that is new?

BuzzFeed treats technology as an ally, having implemented a tool in their CMS which allows them to see what a post looks like before it’s posted, which also works on mobile and is paired with an AP testing for headlines and thumbnails. “Testing your content will make a difference - do it”, Leopold stressed. 

BuzzFeed content is optimised for mobile and having a post that is text-only or a video that is 50 minutes long “is not an option, because they’re unapproachable”, she said. Instead, they create smaller videos that can be consumed even without sound or a great internet connection due to their small size.

Think of social media as your homepage

At BuzzFeed,  content is regarded as free and floating and the goal is for people to share it, but when and how people choose to do so is much more important than “optimising the homepage for clicks”, Leopold pointed out. 

People liking a page is not enough and publishers need to continuously provide content that users will engage with. She also shared that some audiences consume content that they don’t want their peers to know they are consuming and love a sarcastic approach to posts.

Measuring success

“We don’t take for granted being on this daily media menu, we need to earn the trust of our readers”, Leopold said. If this is properly done, people will willingly share with their networks and communities why they like and share the stories you produce. 

She concluded by saying that trust, love and sympathy “are what you need as a brand in order to be in people’s lives”. 

Story by Madalina Ciobanu.

  • Hearst UK appoints Kalpana Fitzpatrick finance editor

    Hearst Magazines UK has appointed Kalpana Fitzpatrick as its finance editor. Kalpana is currently the consumer editor of Good Housekeeping magazine, a role she took on in November 2017, and will continue with that role alongside her new position. This new role represents Hearst’s move into significantly developing its finance content in response to growing engagement by its readers on this subject.

    18th Jan 2018 Industry News
  • Condé Nast appoints Phillip Picardi chief content officer, Teen Vogue and Them

    Condé Nast announced that Phillip Picardi has been named chief content officer of Teen Vogue, where he previously held the title of digital editorial director. In his new role, Picardi will continue to oversee content for the brand’s digital, social and video platforms and will take on experiential endeavors, including the highly successful Teen Vogue Summit series. Picardi also will continue in his role as the chief content officer of them, Condé Nast’s next-gen LGBTQ platform.

    17th Jan 2018 Industry News
  • Roularta makes an offer for Sanoma titles

    Roularta Media Group has made a binding offer for the Belgian Sanoma titles with the exception of the home magazines.

    16th Jan 2018 Industry News
  • Facebook feed changes to have major impact on publishers

    Over the next few months, Facebook will be making updates to ranking where the news feed will prioritise content that sparks conversations, having an effect on posts from businesses, brands and media.

    12th Jan 2018 Industry News
  • When Facebook fell out of love with news

    The realisation that Facebook is a social network first and foremost and not a news-stand is starting to hit home with publishers as Mark Zuckerberg continues to fiddle with his News Feed algorithm to salvage - or grow - his creation.

    15th Jan 2018 Features
  • How Martha Stewart Living saw success across platforms in 2017

    It has been a record-breaking year for Meredith’s Martha Stewart Living. “Over the last year and a half, we have been doing some great things and I think we saw the results of those efforts in 2017,” said Daren Mazzucca, VP/group publisher of Martha Stewart Living.

    15th Jan 2018 Features
  • How the EU’s new ePrivacy regulations could profoundly impact all media

    From a legislative perspective 2018 looks set to be an interesting, potentially challenging year for publishers. In May the EU wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enforced bringing new controls on the collection of data.

    15th Jan 2018 Features
  • How Cheddar revolutionises business media

    Cheddar Inc. launched two years ago as a news and business channel aimed at at young-ish audience that would be carried via social media, smart TV and mobile. Two years on and global expansion is high on Cheddar's agenda. 

    11th Jan 2018 Features
  • Chart of the week: What are the risks to success for publishers in 2018?

    Social media, and above all Facebook, took a lot of heat for its perceived role in disseminating rumour and false news, most prominently during the US election campaign in 2016. Now, the firm has announced that it will give publishers less space for promoting their content (organically) on its platform. This is of course is bad news for publishers.

    15th Jan 2018 Insight News


Visit our Youtube channel


In this article


FIPP newsletters allow you to keep up with industry trends, research, training and events across the world



Get global coverage of your launches, company news and innovations


Upcoming @ FIPP

What’s happening now, what’s coming next

Go to Full Site