BuzzFeed Starts Program to Train Agencies in the BuzzFeed Way

BuzzFeed is starting an effort to train agencies in BuzzFeed-style storytelling — all the better to support its bottom line with sponsored posts, also known as “native advertising.”


Its Social Storytelling Creator Program, inspired by agency cultivation efforts at Facebook and Google, is meant to seed the market with agencies and people who will do great work in the social storytelling space, according to Jon Steinberg, president and COO at BuzzFeed, who previously helped develop small business partnerships at Google. “We want more people doing it in a high quality way,” he said.  Any publisher could train agencies to create native ads for their websites, but Mr. Steinberg said BuzzFeed is especially qualified for the job. “There aren’t many people doing branded content at this scale,” he explained. “Others don’t have the technology staff or level of experience.”

Why I’m Curious:

As more and more brands – and agencies – shift their communications approach from campaign advertising to content marketing, there is a need to build a competency in social storytelling for both editorial and branded content.  The  program provides an additional revenue stream for Buzzfeed, but it “trains” agencies to create content in the “Buzzfeed way” while allowing agencies to explore how to best advertise on the site.

Buzzfeed definitely has an advantage over Facebook – people on Buzzfeed are actively looking for content, not to necessarily connect with their personal social network so the experience is less disruptive and more organic (and contextual).

And it seems to be working.  Several brands have already experienced great success with Buzzfeed (no surprises here):

  • GE was one of the first brands to partner with Buzzfeed starting in 2010 and recently partnered with them to launch Wonderground, a digital and mobile game that lets users do tech-centric virtual tours of cities like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.
  • After the success of 5in5, IBM decided to continue the partnership with Buzzfeed, creating a permanent branded channel and using it to regularly push out content, most recently  “A Boy And His Atom
  • Starbucks partnered with Buzzfeed to create the Reaction-Cam – a user-initiated “web-cam” that creates a 3 second animated GIF of viewers’ reactions to content that they can then upload and share via Facebook and Twitter.

At a broader, industry level, as Buzzfeed evolves it’s business model (they also recently announced a Community silo) and more brands adopt a content approach, it will be interesting to watch how users adjust their behavior on and expectations of different social platforms – and how the platforms continue to redefine themselves to accommodate these changes.


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