HOME
          
LATEST STORY
A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 5, 2011, 4:45 p.m.

How Buzzfeed got its biggest traffic day…ever

When emotion meets information, big things can happen.

Today — an unassuming Monday after a relatively slow news weekend — is Buzzfeed’s biggest traffic day. Ever.

Part of that isn’t too surprising. Buzzfeed’s traffic, says its founder, Jonah Peretti, has been trending upward, benefitting from the overall increase in the user bases of Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and other social platforms. Buzzfeed currently gets about 55 percent of its traffic from social sources, Peretti told me — and that percentage itself, especially over the last few months, has been steadily growing. “The world is shifting toward social content,” he notes, and since social content is what Buzzfeed’s all about, it’s been seeing the benefits of that shift.

So today’s record traffic is in part a function of that overall growth. But it’s also the product of one specific post: “The Most Powerful Photos of 2011.” The feature, posted two days ago, has (so far) garnered over 3 million views — almost all of them “viral views,” or views that come from social networks and aggregators. The post, created by BuzzFeed editor Matt Stopera, has been tweeted over 22,000 times; it’s been liked on Facebook over 130,000 times. It’s gotten nearly 2 million referrals from Facebook, nearly 250,000 from Reddit, and nearly 90,000 from Twitter. And “it’s still going strong,” Peretti says.

Which begs the question: Why? What about this post, in particular, gives it its impressive virality?

The broad answer is that “The 45 Most Powerful” offers a seamless mix of information and emotion. As a work of journalism, it serves as a nice reminder of the big news stories of 2011: Japan’s earthquake, London’s riots, Osama bin Laden’s death. Like any good “year in review”-type feature, it combines an informational approach to the events of the past year with the emotional, marrying memory with something even more powerful: nostalgia. The fact that it’s comprised mostly of images (as the post’s name suggests, particularly powerful images) gives it a gut-level relevance — and a relevance, significantly, that persists despite users’ age or language or location. It gets you in the head and the heart at the same time.

“I think the future is going to be about combining informational content with social and emotional content,” Peretti says, and “the post did a great job of combining those two things.”

There’s also the fact, of course, that the post is a composite of 45 different, and topically varied, photos. It’s not a slideshow — the images live together at the same URL, with nary a pagebreak in sight — but each picture increases the chance of the kind of social relevance that encourages sharing. I might not connect personally with photos of, say, the U.S. war in Afghanistan; but I might know one of the protestors who was pepper-sprayed at UC Davis last month. And I might share the post because of that connection. To Buzzfeed, as far as engagement stats go, the why of my share doesn’t much matter: A view is a view.

And sharing itself, Peretti says, is rapidly changing as people become more and more aware of themselves as not just consumers of content, but curators of it. “In the past, sites like Facebook have been about cute cats and what your friends are up to,” he notes. But “I think, increasingly, we’re going to see the content in Facebook’s feed come more into balance and include more informational content — news content.” Viral potential will increasingly be about not just cuteness, not just hilarity, not just shock, but also something much more journalistic: informational relevance. And shared content, Peretti says, will increasingly be shared not because it’s individually interesting, but because it’s globally so. Lulz (obvs) will always have their place. But social content may well concern itself with something both more basic and more meaningful: “things that are happening in the world.”

POSTED     Dec. 5, 2011, 4:45 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
The newsonomics of new cutbacks at The New York Times
The Times found success with its first round of paywalls, disappointment with its second. Is it hitting a paid-content ceiling?
With limited time to revamp WNYC’s Schoolbook, John Keefe decided to take his team on the road
The new Schoolbook will have targeted emails, major content partnerships, three languages, and more — and building it took just seven days.
What to read next
751
tweets
Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
677Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps?
A new study looks at how engineers and designers from companies like Storify, Zite, and Google News see their work as similar — and different — from traditional journalism.
596Ken Doctor: Guardian Space & Guardian Membership, playing the physical/digital continuum
The Guardian is making its biggest bet on memberships and events by renovating a 30,000 square foot space to host live activities in the heart of London.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Daily Mail
McClatchy
Ann Arbor News
MinnPost
The Sunlight Foundation
Tribune Publishing
Newser
The Atlantic
Chicago Tribune
TBD
The Seattle Times
IRE/NICAR