Buzzfeed is one of the best sites to have come out of nowhere in the last few years. On the surface, it appears to be very similar to the BoingBoings and the Laughing Squids and the Gawkers of the world – bite sized nuggets of cool/weird/funny content that don’t take up much of your time and with titles that make them eminently clickable. For example, here’s a sample post that I believe to be one of the greatest pieces of content ever created on the web:
Now how the hell are you going to not click that? And share it once you’ve clicked it? Of course you will!
But then you look more closely and you realize that this is one of the first web publication of it’s kind in that appears to be almost completely native to social media. I went downtown to sit with Buzzfeed’s editor Ben Smith and to see his operation last month and I was blown away by the energy of the place. They had a hundred bloggers behind screens and walking around taking meetings etc, it was buzzing like a beehive. And the bees all appeared to be young, smiling and engaged. I walked out of there thinking these guys are going to CRUSH. And it appears I’m right.
Chris Dixon just reprinted a Buzzfeed internal email from Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti that every producer of web content and internet investor should read. I particularly liked this bit about treating the readers with respect…
2) Respecting our Readers
We care about the experience of people who read BuzzFeed and we don’t try to trick them for short term gain. This approach is surprisingly rare.
How does this matter in practice? First of all, we don’t publish slideshows. Instead we publish scrollable lists so readers don’t have to click a million times and can easily scroll through a post. The primary reason to publish slideshows, as far as I can tell, is to juice page views and banner ad impressions. Slideshows are super annoying and lists are awesome so we do lists!
For the same reason, we don’t show crappy display ads and we make all our revenue from social advertising that users love and share. We never launched one of those “frictionless sharing” apps on Facebook that automatically shares the stories you click because those apps are super annoying. We don’t post deceptive, manipulative headlines that trick people into reading a story. We don’t focus on SEO or gaming search engines or filling our pages with millions of keywords and tags that only a robot will read. We avoid anything that is bad for our readers and can only be justified by short term business interests.
Instead, we focus on publishing content our readers love so much they think it is worth sharing. It sounds simple but it’s hard to do and it is the metric that aligns our company with our readers. In the long term is good for readers and good for business.
Now take that and look around at other sites and how they treat their readers. Pop-ups assaulting your field of vision halfway through an article, links that explode into banners if you accidentally mouse over one, interstitial ads between pages of an article, ads in the middle of paragraph or full-screeners that spread out before you while you’re reading, newsletter subscription pop-ups, side-bar videos that start making noise and talking out of nowhere and won’t stop until you find the pause button, and on and on.
So god bless Buzzfeed for going the other way. make sure to read the rest of Jonah’s email, it’s a fantastic State of the Company letter as these things go.