Today, viral media hub BuzzFeed is launches a Facebook app that aims to recreate the experience of discovering content on its website. Through the app, users can browse humorous images, interesting articles, and shocking videos, leave reactions using “LOL”, “Cute”, “Fail” and other buttons, and share BuzzFeed posts with friends via Facebook’s social plugins.
Along with yesterday’s release of the Wall Street Journal’s canvas app, the BuzzFeed app indicates a growing trend of publishers maximizing the exposure and referral traffic they gain from Facebook by creating standalone versions of their sites within the social network. BuzzFeed’s President Jon Steinberg tell us the company sees Facebook as “another type of news stand, and we want BuzzFeed to be available on every news feed stand people frequent.”
BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, who previously cofounded the Huffington Post. The New York City-based site populates itself by algorithmically determining what content is trending on the internet, taking user submissions, and publishing picks by its editors. It now reports 15 million monthly unique visitors, and offers mobile app versions.
The company generates revenue in an innovative way. Rather than showing traditional display ads, it allows advertisers to sponsor BuzzFeed posts that mention them or relate to their business. BuzzFeed then dynamically selects the post related to a sponsor that is receiving the most engagement and shows it on the home page and as a “Partner” post amongst lists of organic content. In this way, BuzzFeed doesn’t actually show ads, just more content its visitors might have wanted to see anyway. BuzzFeed also has a program called Extensions that advertises for sponsored content on Twitter, Facebook via the Ads API, and other open inventory around the internet.
The BuzzFeed site displays Facebook’s Like, Send, and Comments Box social plugins as well as sharing buttons for several other platforms. Steinberg tells us that “Facebook is one of our largest sources of referral traffic, accounting for millions of referral visits a month.” With Facebook users already reacting well to its content, BuzzFeed saw a big opportunity in creating a native version within the social network that made sharing with friends even more seamless.
The BuzzFeed Facebook app streamlines its website to create a more laidback experience. Rather than bombarding users with choices of which post to view or channel to browse, users are immediately presented with a single post. They can choose to leave feedback or share it, or simply move on to the next post. This addictive, StumbleUpon-style flow keeps users constantly discovering new content they might want to share instead of navigating around the site.
BuzzFeed drops barriers to usage by not showing the permissions request for a user’s data until it absolutely needs it. To drive app growth, when users who granted permissions click an “OMG” or “Win” button on a post, they’re shown one friend and prompted to send them the post including a link to the app.
Though users must return to the website to add their own posts, search posts, or see channels such as “Hot on Facebook”, the lightweight app works well for killing time while waiting for a friend to respond to a Chat message or more stories to be added to the news feed. If the BuzzFeed and Wall Street Journal apps succeed, expect more publishers to build native versions of their sites on Facebook.