The role of legacy print media in a digital age is something that we have been thinking about a lot at Undercurrent HQ. It's not enough for Cosmopolitan to replicate their print magazine on the web; placing all your bets on content is a bad move online, especially with the frequency and quality of branded content rising. The future looks bleak for traditional media brands who fail to grow some digital cojones.
Traditional media needs to adapt to a digital climate by learning from brands that were born this way – like Buzzfeed. Last week Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti told Charlie Rose that he wants to build the "defining social publishing site." Business Week also ran a great article on their advertising model in March. The hype is justified. Buzzfeed is a great example of a brand that is changing the way we create and consume content online. Buzzfeed's innovation is to prioritize the way we consume media over the content itself. Here are six things we can learn from our favorite source of LOLs. Graydon Carter, Jann Wenner, Anna Wintour, I'm talking to you.
1. No more banner ads Buzzfeed has zero banner ads on their site. Not one. According to Peretti: "Banner ads don't work. That's from the portal era, one step before the search era." Instead, the site's revenue relies on branded content collaborations.
2. Do it yourself Buzzfeed uses a custom advertising model, custom CMS, and proprietary data set. They also organize their content with a branded set of badges, so readers can filter material in a uniquely Buzzfeedy way, searching by: "LOL, win, OMG, cute, reeky, trashy" and "fail." "We're in a new market," says Peretti, "which means we need to invent all this stuff."
3. Content for consumption behaviors Buzzfeed represents a new type of social publication that doesn't give a damn about search engine optimization. Says Felix Gilette in an article for Business Week, "they're pioneering social network optimization: sites designed technologically and editorially to cater directly to the growing number of people who organize their media consumption though a social network's news feed."
4. It matters how people find your content After running a series of GE sponsored content, Buzzfeed hired analytics company Vizu to measure consumer sentiment towards the the series. Vizu found that people had a higher opinion of the content if they were referred to it by a friend than if they had stumbled upon it directly or via advertising.
5. Be the authority, invent your own lingo Combat douchey internet-speak with your own vocabulary. Here are a few terms birthed from casa Buzzfeed:
Social Brand Life: Branded content that results in greater brand affinity than traditional banner ads.
Supersharer: Someone who has a high activity level. They see stuff, share it and pass it around.
Viral Lift: Metric comparing paid impressions to views of the branded content generated by social sharing. "For the social world, Viral Lift is a better metric than something like click-through rates," says Peretti.
6. Time spent on site is an outdated metric Banner ads are only effective when viewed 100 million times. Branded content, on the other hand, adapts to the social reader's behaviors. Buzzfeed understands that their readers are finding Buzzfeed content in their social feeds; they will leave to consume content elsewhere, but then return to their social homebase.