Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Gimlet wants to become the “HBO of podcasting” — here’s what its founder’s learned trying to get there
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Feb. 20, 2014, 5:37 p.m.
LINK: recode.net  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   February 20, 2014

Liz Gannes at Recode had an interesting story Thursday about how newly acquired WhatsApp had already begun introducing “Share on WhatsApp” tools to a select group of publishers, including BuzzFeed. Gannes’ story included this remarkable statement:

In fact, BuzzFeed is already seeing more shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter on iOS, the company told Re/code.

Whaaaat? More shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter? That’s insane if true! Should we all be abandoning our Twitter strategies in favor of WhatsApp strategies? What the hell does a WhatsApp strategy look like, anyway?

But here’s the thing: It’s not true. Gannes spends the next few paragraphs noting that it isn’t really “more shares” as much as it’s “more taps on one button as opposed to another nearby button.”

“Every time we looked at WhatsApp’s numbers, it blew us away,” said BuzzFeed president Jon Steinberg. “We knew last April this was a huge social network and have become increasingly obsessed with it.”

BuzzFeed integrated WhatsApp’s share button on iOS in October, and has seen shares double in the last few months, said BuzzFeed VP of business development Ashley McCollum.

But the WhatsApp tool is still very basic. “We only have click data, not referral data,” McCollum said. “So we know if you clicked the share button in mobile Web, but we don’t know (yet) if you shared in on a group text with 15 people and 15 people clicked it or if you shared it with one person.” [Or if you shared it with anyone at all. —Josh]

BuzzFeed is now working on Android and mobile Web integration for WhatsApp, McCollum said.

Aha: So it’s not that WhatsApp is generating more traffic than Twitter for BuzzFeed. It’s not even that BuzzFeed stories are being shared more often on Twitter than on WhatsApp. BuzzFeed doesn’t know how many times it’s being shared on WhatsApp! What it knows is that the green button on the right gets more taps than the light blue button at left-center:

buzzfeed-share-tools

I was wondering about that, so we emailed BuzzFeed’s McCollum just to be sure. “The metric is that more people click the WhatsApp share button on iOS mobile web than the Twitter button,” she wrote back.

Which is in no way the same as saying BuzzFeed sees more shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter. (Even once you note that we’re only talking here about mobile web pageviews on iPhones and iPod touches — which I’d guess is at most 20 to 30 percent of BuzzFeed traffic.)

People have lots and lots of ways to share stories to Twitter. If they’re using iOS, Twitter sharing is built right into the operating system. If they’re Twitter users, there’s a very good chance they’re already viewing the BuzzFeed article inside a Twitter app on their phone, which features a separate “tweet this webpage” button. And we know from previous data that Tweet Buttons generate only a small share of the Twitter shares of news stories — only about 12 percent as of November — and I’d wager that’s even lower on mobile.

Anyway, I say all this not to denigrate WhatsApp sharing — it’s likely big and will only get bigger. It’s a real phenomenon worth talking about! But to say, as Quartz did, that “People are already sharing more BuzzFeed stories to WhatsApp than to Twitter” is just completely unsupported by the evidence at hand.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Gimlet wants to become the “HBO of podcasting” — here’s what its founder’s learned trying to get there
Alex Blumberg, CEO and co-founder of Gimlet Media: “People who like public radio like podcasts, but people outside of public radio also like podcasts. So let’s find those people.”
Can Campbell Brown’s education news site walk the advocacy–journalism tightrope?
The new venture, cofounded by the former CNN and NBC News anchor, is not ashamed about having an agenda. One key part of its toolkit: using video to create a “Waiting for Superman”-like impact on the discussion around education.
Trouble in paradise? How the struggles of two Hawaiian paywalls reflect larger industry trends
The Honolulu Civil Beat and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser both introduced paywalls a couple of years ago. Now their strategies are showing signs of stagnation.
What to read next
1119
tweets
New Pew data: More Americans are getting news on Facebook and Twitter
A new study from the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation finds that more Americans of all ages, races, genders, education levels, and incomes are using Twitter and Facebook to consume news.
538How Upworthy is using data to move beyond clickbait and curation
After hiring Amy O’Leary from The New York Times, the site has started using user data to inform its original content production.
534Putting the public into public media membership
Getting beyond tote bags and pledge drives is critical to the sustainability of public media. Is there an alternative vision of membership that relies on relationships more than money?
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 ➚
Ushahidi
Houston Chronicle
ESPN
Foursquare
Minneapolis Star Tribune
TBD
Wired
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Investigative News Network
Creative Commons
Gotham Gazette
Tumblr