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Behind The Brand

BuzzFeed Cracks 5 Billion Content Views A Month

In 3 years, BuzzFeed grew from 100 million monthly content views to 5 billion, largely due to the way it leverages social.

[Photo: © SHANNON STAPLETON/Reuters/Corbis]

A key difference between BuzzFeed and other media properties is that the company can be defined as a social publication. That means it approaches social media destinations as stand-alone publishing platforms that are just as important as its website. An article or video will often be executed and presented in an entirely different way on Snapchat versus Facebook, a departure from the prevailing model of creating content once and republishing everywhere and as many times as possible.

In a memo sent to employees this week, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti revealed just how far that strategy has carried the company: BuzzFeed now receives 5 billion content views per month. "Content views" refers to the number of times BuzzFeed content is viewed on any of more than 30 platforms where it distributes material, including buzzfeed.com, mobile apps, and Snapchat.

Is a passing scroll-by view of a social update on Facebook or Twitter as meaningful as the engagement time for a long form feature or original video? No, but that's okay because BuzzFeed excels at both micro-updates and in-depth reporting. In the last month, the investigations team broke stories about the financial struggles of coworking company WeWork and the plight of female refugees who have been raped while making their way through Europe.

Peretti acknowledges in the memo that publishers continue seeking better ways to measure audience, and that none is perfect. Traditionally, publishers measure "page views" on their own websites, and many don't bother announcing their content views on every single platform the way BuzzFeed does. Yet that breakdown is important, as Peretti revealed in an interview with Re/code last month. Here's how the views shake out:

23 percent: Direct to the site or apps
14 percent: YouTube views
2 percent: Google search to the site
6 percent: Facebook traffic to the site
27 percent: Facebook native video
4 percent: Images on Facebook
21 percent: Snapchat content views
3 percent: Other distributed platforms

In other words, 48% of BuzzFeed's monthly content views—about 2.4 billion, per our calculations—can be attributed to its Facebook videos and its Discover channel on Snapchat. This is doubly impressive given that BuzzFeed only joined Discover in late July.

If you're still skeptical about BuzzFeed's social media-inclusive "content view" metrics, there's other data proving that it's a formidable page view machine. According to CNN, analytics firm comScore reports that BuzzFeed received almost 643 million page views during the month of September, while the New York Times drew about 527 million page views during the same month. (These numbers were independently confirmed by Fast Company through comScore.) Fast Company's network of sites, on the other hand, had a total of 15 million views in September, as per comScore's calculations.

CNN, meanwhile, announced on Thursday that it's beating BuzzFeed on multiple fronts, including page views; the news organization claims it receives 1.6 billion views across desktop and mobile. The comScore number we saw was even higher, but either way, CNN is apparently clocking significantly higher page view numbers to its website than BuzzFeed.

Yet despite its dominant position, CNN announced earlier this week the launch of a web video spin-off called Great Big Story, which will focus on shareable content and native advertising—and compete more directly with, you guessed it, BuzzFeed.

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