Can BuzzFeed change social media engagement?

social media, engagement, BuzzFeed, media, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

When you first come across it, BuzzFeed does not appear to be an ordinary news site. With memes, GIFs and other items to create a more visual experience, it has within the last few years taken off in popularity, showcasing a new way to tell stories through list pieces and other content, including the news of the day.

The bureaus started slowly, beginning in their offices in New York and expanding in the US to include locations in Washington and Los Angeles. It then came to the UK in 2013 and started building a base in London. At the helm of the engagement was social media, as articles gained more hits, retweets and favourites, especially with younger audiences.

Almost immediately there was interest, citing the fresh, new way that information had been presented and the visual dominance that was at the centre of its content.

This week, months after the announcement that Janine Gibson of The Guardian would become its new editor in chief (she started in August), BuzzFeed confirmed what had been reported by many, including the web site Politico and the Press Gazette – they would be expanding their editorial team to include regional reporters.

Changes in the industry

According to the job posting on BuzzFeed’s web site, reporters would be based in the North of England, as well as Scotland and Wales. The posting says that reporters need to have experience working on hard news stories as well as stories that pop.

“They should have ideas about what BuzzFeed UK’s regional coverage should look like and where we should be reporting from,” the advert says. “She or he also needs to be interested in stories that aren’t just interesting — they want to produce stories that are powerful, troublemaking, and well-reported; exactly as short as they can possibly be; timely and accurate.”



Outside of the regional reporting roles, there are current vacancies in their London bureau, which at this writing include a Business Editor, a Weekend Editor, and multiple writing positions.

An ongoing trend?

The announcement came as BuzzFeed as a whole continues to expand and widen its scope, not just in the UK but also in the US. Last month, the US media company NBC Universal invested $200 million (£131.5 million) in the site, a sign that many in the changing media industry knew how much of a dominant player the site has become in just a few short years.

Yet, as it continues to expand its bureaus and create new editions, with ones recently launched in countries including Canada and Japan, what does this suggest as far as news engagement with younger audiences? Can all of those memes, cat photos and GIFs serve as lessons for other news organisations, in an age where the future of journalism continues to be debated?

While no news organisation is alike, it is clear that BuzzFeed has indeed become a dominant player in the world of engagement, as young people flock to it via social media and other means. Whether that seeks to be a long term trend remains uncertain, but the fact that young people are being engaged about news in new ways, be it from BuzzFeed, Radio 1’s Newsbeat or other outlets, says a lot about how far the media has developed in the internet age.

For now, BuzzFeed is capitalising on those advances, and many in the media industry are aware at how much influence the site already has. One will have to wait to see if the industry trends will change, but ultimately, the next click goes to the audience, and whether they will stay or whether they will go.

What do you think? What role do you think BuzzFeed has in the media industry? Have your say in the comments section below.