This week in Journalism Technologies we welcomed the second guest speaker of the term, Luke Lewis, the founding editor of BuzzFeed UK and now the company’s Head of European Growth. Luke graciously joined us by Google Hangout from London and gave students an overview of how he spearheaded BuzzFeed’s remarkable growth here since it opened in London just four years ago.
Among the key takeaways from Luke’s talk and the Q&A which followed was the large and growing importance BuzzFeed is putting on video content. On the face of it, that’s not too dissimilar from the similar emphasis at Trinity Mirror which we heard about a fortnight ago. But there are differences in purpose and execution.
TM is particularly interested in the greater value of ads which it can sell around its videos, while the different business model of BuzzFeed favours community and sponsored content. Luke gave some valuable insight into the development of BuzzFeed’s extraordinarily successful Tasty videos, and how relatively few of the people who look at them on Facebook ever actually end up making one of the recipes (a show of hands in the room confirmed Huddersfield students back up this part of the analysis).
One point made by @lukelewis: we talk about mobile-first, but one day it could turn mobile-only, in a way we struggle to conceive of now.
— Richard Jones (@rlwjones) February 13, 2017
It’s perhaps no surprise Tasty’s been such a hit. Luke noted that content around food, as well as sexual health, tends to do well regardless of the country, even if distribution platforms can vary (curiously, Facebook is “nowhere” in Japan). Luke also did a spot of futurology, looking ahead to a future where even conventional desktop websites gradually disappear in a mobile-only world.
Our workshops looked back at a more traditional aspect of BuzzFeed though, the listicle. We got each group to work together to make one during their sessions, then challenged them to get as many views as they could within a week.
The winners were the Broadcast Journalism group for this effort, although the total number of clicks (fewer than 300) meant it didn’t exactly set Facebook on fire. I’ve done these sessions often with school and college groups over the years, and the undisputed champions remain a group of students from Wakefield College, who last year clocked up more than 8,000 viewers for this list of the worst things about their hometown. It even got its own YouTube response video. The corresponding ‘best’ list didn’t do nearly as well, although surely that tells us more about people’s sense of humour than what that fine city is actually like.