How Buzzfeed is Taking Over the World – One Video at a Time

How Buzzfeed is Taking Over the World – One Video at a Time

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In July 2015, BuzzFeed video properties generated over 1.9B views across the main video platforms. Further more, a quarter of the top 20 most watched videos in the past 90 days are Buzzfeed uploads.

Buzzfeed is an online publishing phenomenon. With its insanely engaging content such as listicles, and quizzes, being shared by millions, it was inevitable that it would embrace video in a way never seen before. Created as a ‘viral lab’ back in 2006, it began by summarizing online trends and producing content around them. The brand now publishes around 700+ different items of content everyday across 25+ different categories such as news, beauty, tech, and food, and has established itself as a site that incorporates investigative journalism, and current affairs analysis, alongside some of the most buzzworthy articles on the internet.

BuzzFeed recently confirmed statistics for traffic generation, stating that 75% of the site’s content views are driven by off-site properties, including an incredible 50% from Snapchat, 27% from Facebook native video, and 14% from YouTube views.

Using Tubular data we are able to take a deep-dive into the cross-platform video strategy of the brand and take a look at just how well video is working for it. But first, did you know the following?

8 Mind Blowing Facts About Buzzfeed Video

  • 5 of the top 20 most watched videos in the past 90 days belong to Buzzfeed properties
  • Buzzfeed’s top 5 videos of all time are about food (2 just about pizza!)
  • Food is by far the most popular content for video uploads to Facebook
  • Pop culture, sex, and lifestyle content does well on other video platforms
  • The brand has more views from YouTube but more engagement from Facebook
  • Most engaged Buzzfeed video is ‘S’mores Dip‘ with 4.2 million shares, likes & comments
  • 161 videos have generated 10M+ views for Buzzfeed
  • Only 5% of video views come from itself

Buzzfeed: More Views from YouTube, But More Engagement on Facebook

Buzzfeed has around 30 different video properties across the main social video sites, as well as AOL, Yahoo, and Dailymotion, and other video platforms. This syndication is critically important to the company, who confirmed earlier this year that only around 5% of video views come from itself.

To date, the majority of the brand’s combined video content has been uploaded to YouTube (46%) compared to Facebook, (37%) and Vine and Instagram (17%). Given that more content has been uploaded to YouTube it’s unsurprising that videos on that platform have generated more views for Buzzfeed properties (8.2 billion or 53%) than views from Facebook (6.8 billion or 45%). However, Facebook generates the most engagement for the properties with 61% of total shares, likes, and comments compared to 38% for YouTube.

Buzzfeed Video Content All Time Views and Engagement
Engagement, Views, and Upload Metrics for Combined Buzzfeed Video Properties – All Time (Data via Tubular)

In the past 12 months, of all the four main social video platforms, it’s Facebook that is driving the most engagement to Buzzfeed video content. The graph below shows Facebook engagements in blue, with YouTube in red.

Fun Fact: The top videos in terms of engagement on Friday 24th July were two uploads to Facebook; ‘Cookie Dough Dip‘ (Buzzfeed Video – 220K engagements), and ‘Banana Nutella Sushi‘ (Buzzfeed Video – 140K engagements).

Buzzfeed Properties - Engagement for Video Content Aug 2014 to Aug 2015
Engagement Metrics for Video Uploads to Facebook, YouTube, Vine, and Instagram Aug 2014 – Aug 2015 (Data via Tubular)

Buzzfeed on YouTube: 8.2B Video Views

YouTube is the world’s largest video site, and the second largest search engin,  so it forms a core part of Buzzfeed’s publication and distribution strategy. Its flagship channel, Buzzfeed Video has 7.3M subscribers, and you can add around another 9M subscribers for the other branded channels on the site.

In the last 12 months, under the umbrella of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, the company has uploaded 2,760 videos to YouTube (an average of 53 a week), which have generated a combined 6.5B views, and 100M engagements. Buzzfeed’s all-time view count on YouTube is 8.2B, so you can see that the overwhelming majority of these views have been generated in just this past 12 months. Buzzfeed’s most popular upload to YouTube is ‘If Disney Princes Were Real’, uploaded to the Buzzfeed Video channel in September 2014. To date, it has generated 40.1M views, and 461K likes, comments, and shares.

Buzzfeed Video on Facebook: 6.8B Video Views

Buzzfeed has uploaded 3,103 videos to Facebook in the past 12 months, which is an average of 60 per week, a slightly higher rate than uploads to YouTube. It also represents a 122% increase in uploads to the social networking site compared to the previous 12 months. In fact, there have been more videos uploaded in the last 12 months than the average all-time upload rate which strongly suggests Buzzfeed are capitalizing on the high engagement rate.

In last 12 months, Facebook uploads have had an average view rate of 2.2 million, and Buzzfeed’s programming strategy for Facebook video seems to be paying huge dividends for the brand. Ze Frank, President of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, confirmed earlier this year that Facebook has been “very, very significant” as a traffic generator, and that:

“Facebook’s decision to lean into autoplay has really fundamentally changed the way we think about the first five seconds of content”.

In terms of content, food and drink is by far and away the most popular topic uploaded to Facebook by Buzzfeed properties, and Buzzfeed Video and Buzzfeed Food are the top pages on the site in terms of views and engagement. Both of these accounts upload food-related content, but while Buzzfeed Video is also active on YouTube, Buzzfeed Food has found a natural home on Facebook and is clearly focused on growing its reach and influence even further.

The most popular Facebook video to date (not just on Facebook but all time across all video platforms) is this very recent upload by Buzzfeed Food which has generated 109.1M views and 3.6M engagements.

Buzzfeed on Vine & Instagram

Buzzfeed Motion Pictures has a presence on all the main social video platforms, and although its upload rate to Vine and Instagram Video isn’t quite as enthusiastic as it is for Facebook and YouTube, it is pretty active on both sites.

On Vine, Buzzfeed properties have generated a combined 320M views and has done so with dedicated channels such as Buzzfeed BFF, and Buzzfeed Celeb. While food does well for Buzzfeed on Facebook, pop culture, and music related micro-videos do really well on Vine, although to be fair, Buzzfeed doesn’t really upload much food-related content to this platform in the first place. Buzzfeed’s most popular upload to Vine is this Jurassic Park/famous cat meme mash-up which generated 15.4M views, and 345 engagements.

On Instagram, Buzzfeed posts video content to its main account, but also to BFF, Food, and Video. Some of these Instavids are original, some are edited down from longer form videos already uploaded to other accounts. The most successful Instagram video upload to date is a repost from the BFF account, celebrating U.S. marriage equality with famed British thespians Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen:

Buzzfeed Success: Building a Community That Shares

From the very start, Buzzfeed rejected the traditional content distribution approach in favor of a social-sharing strategy. Founder Jonah Peretti understood that with millions of people online during work hours, any content that relieved the boredom was going to be a hit. The so-called “Bored at Work Network” publishing strategy targets workers looking to pass their time on social media, and whose enthusiastic consuming or sharing of content can make a post or a video go viral in hours.

But Buzzfeed went even further in a bid to make its content the most shareable on the web. It started using posts and videos as a communication tool, and not just as content filler. When Jonathan Perelman, then BuzzFeed’s GM of Video & VP of Agency Strategy, spoke at the 2014 ReelSummit, he shared the brand’s magic formula for video content marketing, and confirmed that consumers share video content for 5 main reasons:

  • To be social
  • To express how they are feeling about a particular topic
  • To show off, or humble-brag
  • To prove they were the first ones to find something
  • To make friends and colleagues laugh

buzfeed video dominationHowever, Buzzfeed also creates video that helps form a shared experience for the viewer. We all love being part of a community, and identifying with fellow participants, whether that’s bonding over a love of milkshakes, or remembering what it was like to go to school in Ohio in the 80’s, or any other number of subjects we can all relate to.

Social media is the perfect vehicle for building communities around people, and Buzzfeed has implemented one of the strongest social strategies around its video content we’ve ever seen to reach as many potential community members as possible. You may not be a regular Buzzfeed reader, but the chances are at least one piece of content will have resonated with you based on your some aspect of your life – whether that’s how much you dread work, your relationship status, your food preferences, or whether you are a cat, dog, or gerbil person. Buzzfeed has made sure of it, believe me.

How? The publisher uses an algorithm called ‘ViralRank’ within its purpose-built Social Dashboard to determine what content is being shared across social media in real-time. It can then optimize the promotion of that video or post to increase its reach even further. This data can also determine the kind of content that readers and viewers engage with, which in turn feeds into future programming strategies. Perelman also confirmed that Buzzfeed produces video content around three main types of data-driven intent: emotional gift, information, and identity:

Emotional Gift Videos: This type of video is created to tap into the wide range of human emotions. A Buzzfeed video should be able to change the viewers mood from a sad one to a happy one, or an interested one, and give them some relief from the relentless bad news that floods the Internet every day. These types of videos are created to make the viewer feel something, because if a certain emotional reaction is triggered, the viewer is more likely to share. Great examples of this type of content from Buzzfeed video includes ‘Giant Men Meet Tiny Kittens‘ or ‘Adults Try Public School Lunches’:

Informational Videos: These videos try to present information in a new, or a quirky way. Perelman stated to never underestimate the power of the viewer to resonate with content if they already know something about a topic, but were willing to learn more if it was presented in an entertaining way. Also, Buzzfeed has determined that these type of videos make for great sharing among communities and friends and family, particularly if they help to prove or disprove an argument. An excellent example of a great informational, and highly shareable video, is ‘12 Food Facts You Won’t Believe Are True‘.

Videos Viewers Can Identify With: Viewers want to identify as something, to belong to a community or group that defines who they are, and what they believe in. Video content created around this intent does extremely well for Buzzfeed as it’s highly shareable. Perfect examples include ‘Walking With Tall People #ShortPeopleProblems‘ and ‘Things You Didn’t Realize Everyone Does‘.

8 Things Buzzfeed Video Does Really REALLY Well

Buzzfeed is a unique publishing house, grown from scratch with custom-built in-house systems that identify what content will do well, where it will do well, and how likely are viewers and readers to share it across their own social networks. It’s a powerhouse and has access to infinitely more resources than the average video creator or brand. But, there are some strategies that we can can all learn from. Buzzfeed does the following extraordinarily well:

#1 An Effective Multi-platform Video Strategy: If a social or video platform is active and drawing a substantial audience, then Buzzfeed will have at least one, but more likely several, channels or accounts. But, the brand doesn’t just upload the same video to different sites, it identifies its target demographic and where they are most likely to engage, and uploads content where it’s going to be shared. There’s a reason that Buzzfeed Food is blowing up on Facebook and not YouTube, and why Buzzfeed creates the kind of foodie content it does to match the audience of any given platform. Yes, it takes time and resources to create a cross-platform video strategy, but you need to be where the audience is, and understand how they are going to interact with your content.

#2 Consistent and Pro-active Social Sharing/Cross-Promotion: Buzzfeed makes video content to be shared, not consumed, and it will cross-promote content from different properties everywhere it thinks it will work. Unlike many big brands – and other publishers – Buzzfeed creators and social teams do not work in a silo. Their in-house algorithmic software confirms what’s blowing up on social and will do what they can to squeeze as much engagement out of the videos as possible. The brand understands that not everyone is going to sign up to every social media account they run, so a fairly large chunk of viewers may miss the latest upload. By sharing videos across social media accounts, Buzzfeed ensures that as many eyeballs as possible get to see them.

#3 Created a Trusted Brand: Viewers have grown to trust Buzzfeed’s video content, and that’s one reason why they are so willing to share. There’s nothing to scare the horses – and if there is, Buzzfeed will slap on a NSFW label so viewers know exactly who they can share with without embarrassment.

#4 Creates Strong Tentpole Content: I’d have to spend a few days more than it took to write this article to find out if there is a topic that Buzzfeed Video hasn’t at least touched on when it comes to tent-pole content. It has produced videos around everything from ‘Back to School’, Halloween, Super Bowl, National Dog Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and all points in-between. If it’s a cause for celebration or a landmark event, Buzzfeed will think of an angle and create some killer content around it.

#5 Enticing Titles and Thumbnails: Viewers are fickle and will spend just a few seconds to decide whether they will watch a video, or scroll on by. Much like a first date, brands and creators only have one chance to entice that viewer to click, and a winning title, and compelling thumbnail are your two main weapons in the battle for views. Buzzfeed excel at both.

#6 Sticks With a Winning Formula: The ‘X tries X Food’ series has been a phenomenal success for Buzzfeed, and as the topic seems to be a bottomless well in terms of ideas, we can expect more of the same. And why not, it works, it taps into that ‘community’ spirit that gets viewers to share, it’s engaging, and educational, but most of all, it’s incredibly entertaining.

#7 Tests a Range of Video Content: The beauty of having a multi-video platform strategy (and a huge production team, and an in-house team of data analysts) is the capacity to test what content works where, why it works, or doesn’t, and how to increase upon success. Your Facebook audience may differ so much from your YouTube one that posting to Facebook is a non-starter. But without consistent testing, you’ll never know.

#8 Branded Video Collaborations: Buzzfeed’s first foray into branded collaboration was this video for GE, and since then it has created sponsored video content for Intel, Carl’s Jr, Johnson & Johnson, Virgin Mobile, YouTube, Purina, and other brands. Buzzfeed’s unique influence across different demographics enables brands to reach new target audiences via engaging, compelling, and authentic content that’s highly likely to get shared.

Purina’s ‘A Cat’s Guide To Taking Care Of Your Human’ was uploaded to Buzzfeed Video’s own YouTube channel where it generated 9.2M views, and 540K likes, shares, and comments.

Buzzfeed Video and the Future

Buzzfeed has created a video production, distribution, and social sharing juggernaut and we have a feeling that really, this is just the beginning. Buzzfeed Motion Pictures employs around 200 people, making the Hollywood based team one of the largest original content creators in the online video space. It produces around 50 pieces of video content a week, and is creating short-form, mid-length, and long-form content not only for its own properties, but with major industry collaborators.

BuzzFeed CEO Peretti has made it clear that he wants to extend the brand’s reach to TV and film, and with a recent $200M cash injection from  NBCUniversal, the Comcast owned TV and film giant, we can expect to see  Buzzfeed content make its mark beyond the Internet.


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