A site that counts a list of 27 middle-class problems as one of its most-read articles probably isn’t a media outlet that government press teams would naturally consider targeting.
Which would be a mistake.
Because Buzzfeed UK, now just a year old, has a monthly audience of 10 million people, and gives us the opportunity to tell BIS’ great stories in a different way – and to a different readership.
Luke Lewis, its editor, spoke to a group of people from across government departments a week ago on what makes a good Buzzfeed story, and how we might be able to work with the site. Here's a digest of what he told us...
- Anyone who’s familiar with Buzzfeed knows that the key to their content is its shareability. 70% of their traffic comes via social sharing. Whatever we do, it has to be something people want to pass to their friends.
- The Buzzfeed Community is there for anyone to sign up to – making it a great resource for us to use as a publishing platform. But just uploading content to Buzzfeed doesn’t guarantee traffic: it needs to gain traction before it’ll be put on the homepage, or pushed via their Twitter feed. And a note of caution: trying too hard to make something ‘Buzzfeedy’ is a recipe for disaster. So we’ll have to rethink the number of cat gifs we weave into our stories…
- Buzzfeed is, in part, an entertainment site. Tapping into a story’s fun side is a good way to start it on the road to success.
- Be alert to hoaxes. They’re rife online, and it’s all too easy to be taken in by a good story of a drunk guy being eaten by a python. Make sure you know the provenance of a picture, and that your story stands up to fact-checking.
- Once we’re up and running on the Community section of the site, Buzzfeed’s CMS gives access to a wealth of data – including whether the traffic is made up of seed views, or has come via sharing. It’ll give us a good indication of what works for sharing, and what doesn’t.
- Headlines are critical. Press officers know this – a good headline can make the difference between a piece being read, or not. Luke cited the example of 2 instances of the same story running under two different headlines: one garnered 5000 views – the other, 750 000. That hammers it home, doesn’t it.
- A story must work visually. There’s very little text in the majority of Buzzfeed stories, so the pictures are key. “Photos express a reality more succinctly than words,” Luke explained.
- For all Buzzfeed’s web-savvy, the traditional aspects of journalism are close to the heart of the site: the staff love scoops and they love to break stories. It’s old-school journalism used to different effect.
- 10 is not a magic number. You’ll never see a listicle (Buzzfeed’s bread and butter pieces) of 10, 20 or 50 items. “A list of 10 suggests you’ve had 9 great points and have shoehorned a tenth in for a round number,” Luke said
No number 10. Didn’t you read number 9?
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