How does BuzzFeed do it?
The Web’s crown prince of social media has an uncanny knack for churning out posts that eat up the Internet. One week ago, BuzzFeed’s Jack Shepherd pressed the publish button on “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity,” an undeniably faith-restoring collection of inspiring pictures that I read and shared, along with more than 7 million other people. For those of you who don’t dream in traffic numbers: Seven million page views for one post is astounding. It’s the Internet equivalent of “The Hunger Games,” or a walk-off Game 7 grand slam.
Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo was one of the 7 million. He was also curious: How does the Web’s hit-maker make its hits? Over the last couple weeks, he “spent many hours and opened hundreds of browser tabs in an effort to reverse-engineer posts I found on BuzzFeed.” What he found came as a disappointment. BuzzFeed’s writers weren’t baking from scratch. They were hunter-gathering. “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” was basically a long riff on a shorter post at NedHardy.com. Every big hit at BuzzFeed seemed to follow the same template, Manjoo wrote. A writer would find popular stuff somewhere on the Web (“most often at Reddit”), find other images and examples from the rest of the Web, and publish a more comprehensive piece.