The Buzzfeed Model – From The Horse’s Mouth

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Here’s some real clarity on the concept of “sponsored content” or “native advertizing”. It’s from Buzzfeed’s own presentation last week at a media conference by Jeff Greenspan and Mike Lacher.  A key section is around the 3:40 moment where they explain how they take an advertizing campaign like the Mini’s – “Not Normal” – and then, instead of running a banner ad on those lines, they create a Buzzfeed page on “10 Not Normal Things That Actually Exist.” Here’s how the presenter(s) explains this:

This is an example of our editorial content … so then the thing we work on is sort of how to make branded content sort of like fit alongside this editorial content … there are no banner ads at Buzzfeed at all. We all have content that feels like editorial. We do not trick anyone into thinking this is an ad … If you go to the post, there are two places where the client’s name is listed in the by-line and in the text …

Later in the clip, we get even more honesty:

I’m sure there are brands who would love a headline to be 23 great things you can find at Ikea – not … I know lots of brands that would love their names in a headline but then that screams of an ad. So we have to explain to them that in order to get the results they want is to act like editorial content, act like you’re in the space that you’re in.

Here’s the dialogue between me, the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson and Ben Smith last week:

BEN: I could live with a new word because I think advertorial — to me what that means is like something they paid – usually a quite low quality piece of propaganda that people are tricked into reading because it looks exactly like editorial content – but I actually think though that that’s – like our trick, and the trick that the business side here is attempting to pull of is to produce great content for people … who know our ads and like [them].

ANDREW: So the content is ads – that’s what you’re saying?

BEN: I look at it as great…

ANDREW: So what distinguishes that content from your content?

BEN: Only the label, only the, only the clarity of the label

DEREK: The label makes it..

ANDREW: But you don’t have “advertisement” at the top of it

DEREK: But if they did?

ANDREW: It would help

Will they do that? It would tell us a lot.