Buzzfeed was founded in 2006 by John Peretti as a website to track viral content. This tracking evolved into compiling and sharing viral content from other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. With over 18 offices and 1,300 employees worldwide, it is no longer just a website where you go to find personality quizzes and funny cat memes. Through the use of crowdsourcing, Buzzfeed has been able to stay on the cutting edge of millennial trends, and in recent years, they have expanded on their initial skill set to enter the world of investigative journalism.1
Buzzfeed has utilized crowdsourcing to find the next viral idea by developing a way for individuals with creative ideas to contribute through their Community page. There are very few rules to become a community contributor, and it is free to create a profile. Signing up to become a community contributor also gives someone the ability to submit content such as quizzes, polls, and opinion pieces. One of the few stipulations is that the submission cannot be political.2 This crowdsourcing model is mutually beneficial to both the contributor and Buzzfeed. If the creator’s content becomes viral, it generates more hits for Buzzfeed and moves up in the submission rankings. One contributor even documented how he was able to get two of his submissions to the Buzzfeed’s front page through predictive data analysis.3
As the website has expanded to other areas in the media industry, they have even attempted to start an innovation lab. In 2015, Buzzfeed created their Open Lab to be the open source leg of their R&D department. They aimed to develop new ways to acquire the information needed to tell the stories that their readers wanted to see.4 However, after only two years, Buzzfeed’s Open Lab was dissolved. Instead, they have decided to integrate the engineers and data analysts into the newsroom to create a more efficient and effective system.5
The Columbia Journalism School defines journalism crowdsourcing as “the act of specifically inviting a group of people to participate in a reporting task—such as newsgathering, data collection, or analysis—through a targeted, open call for input; personal experiences; documents; or other contributions.”6 Buzzfeed News, which began in 2012, has utilized both traditional news investigation and crowdsourcing journalism to grow into a burgeoning news source among millennials.7 Like the broader website, Buzzfeed News encourages interaction between the reporters and readers. There is a tip submission page that asks for untold stories and even makes it possible for the person to remain anonymous through the use of a communication method called SecureDrop.8 So far, this has proven to be a successful set up as Buzzfeed News has been the recipient of several awards and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. However, statistics from 2017 show that Buzzfeed has a lot of room to make up before catching up with more traditional news websites, such as Fox News, CNN, and the Washington Post.9
Other websites, such as Vox and The Guardian, utilize crowdsourcing to develop their news cycles, which can sometimes be seen as less credible.7 Building on their reputation as a trusted news source, Buzzfeed should continue to encourage their readers to submit tips and stories. However, the tip submission page is not as widely publicized as it should be. There is a link to the submission is on a banner on the Buzzfeed News homepage, but it could be worthwhile to somehow integrate their efforts into other social media platforms. Exhibit 1 displays the fact that Buzzfeed gets 42% of its traffic from other social media sites.9 This is would it easier for individuals to know that Buzzfeed News is soliciting ideas for new stories and help streamline the submission process. One consideration, however, would be that this could lead to a large number of submissions that are not credible. They could decide to utilize a software that can screen out the noise to get to the quality news stories, or they could have their reporters follow up on a random selection of them. A revamped innovation lab dedicated to discovering effective ways to crowdsource information for news stories.
As Buzzfeed strives to become a more dependable news source, how can it further leverage the open innovation tactics that havemade it one of the most popular websites among young adults?
How can Buzzfeed use the community aspect of their broader webpage to grow the crowdsourcing efforts of Buzzfeed News?
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1 “About Buzzfeed”, accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.buzzfeed.com/about
2 “About Buzzfeed Community”, accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.buzzfeed.com/community/about
3 Barby, Matthew. “How I Made it to the Front Page of BuzzFeed Twice, and How You Can Too”, Matthew Barby (blog), February 8, 2017. https://www.matthewbarby.com/buzzfeed-front-page/
4 Mullin, Benjamin. ”Buzzfeed is Closing Its Open Lab Later This Year” March 30, 2017. https://www.poynter.org/news/buzzfeed-closing-its-open-lab-later-year
5 Hickman, Amanda. “Welcome To The Open Lab” October 7, 2015. https://www.buzzfeed.com/amandahickman/welcome-to-the-open-lab
6 “Share Tips Securely & Anonymously”, accessed November 12, 2018. https://tips.buzzfeednews.com/
7 Roothman, Madre. ”Crowdsourcing: How The Guardian, ProPublica and Vox Media are Doing It” April 30, 2018. https://www.fipp.com/news/opinion/crowdsourcing-the-guardian-propublica-vox-media
8 “About Buzzfeed News” July 17, 2018. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/buzzfeednews/about-buzzfeed-news
9 Molla, Roni. “BuzzFeed is Losing Website Traffic as Readers Head for More Traditional News Sites.” November 30, 2017. https://www.recode.net/2017/11/30/16709310/buzzfeed-losing-web-traffic-readers-layoffs-uniques-prefer-news-over-viral-sites