Capitalizing on what appears to be unquenchable demand for video content, BuzzFeed today announced plans to beef up efforts to create more viral video content, with the creation of a social video lab and a content deal with CNN.com.
The viral news site, which already has 60 million unique visitors to its home page and nearly one million subscribers across six YouTube channels, is opening a social video lab in Los Angeles to create a mix of original news and entertainment under the direction of Ze Frank, BuzzFeed's executive vice president of video.
"These are not videos for search, but specifically designed for sharing," says Jon Steinberg, president and COO of BuzzFeed, in a ClickZ interview today. Over 70 percent of the traffic on the BuzzFeed site is shared over social media networks and nearly half on mobile, the company says.
Video content has proven to be popular with Millennials, web native 18-34-year-olds who are an attractive target for many advertisers. In keeping with this group's interests, Steinberg says, the videos will be under two minutes - as they are most often viewed on a mobile - and offer surprising, quirky, or interesting events, such as natural phenomenon or rescue scenes, rather than in-depth interviews. That doesn't preclude political or harder-hitting topics, he says, but they will be approached a different way.
BuzzFeed will expand its employees in LA from nine to 30, and plans to invest "an eight figure sum" over the next two years into the video efforts, Steinberg says.
Part of the deal includes the launch today of CNN BuzzFeed, a cooperation with CNN.com, in which BuzzFeed will use current and archived video footage to create news videos tailored for sharing. The content will appear on both CNN.com and a dedicated CNN/BuzzFeed YouTube channel. The first such cooperative video, on the site today, showcases numerous rescue attempts, from a woman being pulled out of the rubble in Bangladesh to the spectacular rescue of miners in Chile.
BuzzFeed already has similar deals with BBC America and CNBC, allowing them access to its video content. In addition, the two organizations will collaborate on original list posts that starting today will be published to CNN.com.
The CNN channel will not, at the start, feature any branded content, Steinberg says. "First we will focus on growing the user base and getting people excited, then a decision to monetize the site will follow," he says.
The increased emphasis on video should also mean more opportunities for brands. "All of our inventory is available for branded content," says Steinberg. GE and Virgin Mobile are among the companies that have already taken advantage of branded content on the site.
Interactive media strategist and ClickZ columnist Tessa Wegert believes the deal comes at the right time. "Online video and social media usage have been consistently rising, and consumers are hungry for video content they can share, like, and tie to their online identity as an extension of their interests and tastes," she says. The affiliation between BuzzFeed and CNN demonstrates "an understanding of the value consumers now place on chatter-worthy, real-time content that's reliable."
According to BuzzFeed, 48 of its feature videos have received over one million views, including "The Angriest Babies In The Whole World," "What 2000 Calories Looks Like," and "True Facts About The Angler Fish," a part of the "True Facts" series.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014