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Feb. 18, 2016, 11:20 a.m.
Business Models

‘Twas the week for BuzzFeed strategy analysis pieces: Fast Company declared BuzzFeed the most innovative company of 2016, kicking off a week of coverage; Poynter also ran a story on how BuzzFeed built its investigative reporting team.

You’ll probably want to read the articles in full, but here are a few noteworthy things:

— Video is huge. BuzzFeed gets 5 billion monthly views across all the platforms where it publishes content, with half of those coming from video, “a business that effectively did not exist two years ago.” Thirty-five percent of the company’s revenue came from video in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to 15 percent for the same period in 2014.

— Traffic to Buzzfeed.com has “remained steady” at 80 million people from the U.S. every month, “even though as much as 75 percent of BuzzFeed’s content is now published somewhere else.”

— BuzzFeed has 90 Facebook pages.

— When it comes to email newsletters, “We will go and routinely purge our list. If you don’t open the newsletter for X number of months, then you get an email saying, ‘You’re going to get removed from this list unless you opt in in the next 24 hours.‘ When that happens, newsletter numbers go down.”

— BuzzFeed publishes 65 original videos each week, “for YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, as well as for brands.” One of those is the scripted series You Do You. “Last fall, BuzzFeed decided to bundle the 12 episodes of You Do You for $2.99 on iTunes, the first time it sold its content directly to the public. The series hit No. 1 on the Top TV Seasons chart the week after its release, beating The Walking Dead and Fargo.”

— A data initiative called Hive aims to “track every editorial idea, even ones that aren’t published, across all of BuzzFeed’s many platforms…Soon, every piece of content produced will be uploaded into a central database and assigned a unique ID,” enabling editors to track content’s performance across platforms and see how pieces of content relate to each other.

— Content that goes viral in one country can go viral in another even if it seems particularly local. This story, for instance, was originally published in Germany (in German), where it got a million views; the U.S. and U.K. English-language versions then also got more than a million views. CEO Jonah Peretti: “Five years ago, that probably would’ve been something on a blog or online media just in Germany.”

— “If its projected growth in international markets continues as planned, BuzzFeed will become one of a handful of media companies with the ability to effectively distribute a worldwide advertising campaign on behalf of a brand.”

— “The data never tells you why anything happens,” says publisher Dao Nguyen. “Data will tell you, if you’re very lucky, what happened. It won’t ever tell you why. If you want to understand why, that requires a different set of skills, largely in your brain and in your heart. Why did this story resonate with people?…I think data helps people affirm, deny or continue to explore hypotheses about the human condition.” Which other companies are using data in this way? “Probably Netflix.”

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