Best of the week: BuzzFeed’s e-commerce dreams, publisher bot nightmares

Summer is behind us, school is in session and already the Halloween decorations are going up. Does pumpkin have a brand problem? Maybe we’ll address that later this month. For now, it was a strong week of stories at Digiday. Here’s a digest of some of our stronger offerings this week. And remember, if you didn’t catch them earlier, they’re still new to you.

Buy it on BuzzFeed
“I haven’t been excited about a newsletter like this in two years.” Dan Oshinsky, BuzzFeed’s director of email, is pretty jazzed about the publisher’s new commerce offering. BuzzFeed isn’t the first digital media company to get in on the e-commerce game — more and more publishers are exploring the ways to turn its product reviews and recommendations into cash. Now, the viral publisher has nearly doubled the size of its commerce editorial operation, reports Max Willens. It’s revamped its gift guide newsletter, and is busy exploring ways it can sell to new segments of its young, mostly female subscriber base.

How Fox News wins on Instagram
When Instagram made it possible to upload longer video clips this spring, one of the biggest winners was Fox News, reports Willens. It turns out people like soundbites and salacious quotes.

DailyMail’s header-bidding strategy produces results
MailOnline has been using header bidding on its programmatic ad trading for the last two years — and has seen some major cost savings and revenue boosts as a result. In fact, programmatic revenue on ads traded using header-bidding techniques is up 48 percent year-over-year.

Like all new ad tech, header bidding isn’t without its headaches, and its future importance in programmatic ad trading is far from certain, but for MailOnline, it’s a keeper, for the time being at least. “It’s a stepping stone in the right direction,” said Hannah Buitekant, gm of programmatic for MailOnline. 

The case for difficult geniuses in advertising agencies
We desperately need more “advertising assholes,” argues Mark “Copyranter” Duffy. 

Facebook’s Instant Article holdouts
Several media outlets, some of them early adopters to Facebook’s fast-loading Instant Article format, seem to be posting less and less there, according to a new analysis by NewsWhip and confirmed in independent reporting by Digiday’s Lucia Moses. “We didn’t see a lift in engagement, at least not materially,” Matt Karolian, social media director for the Boston Globe, told her.

Publisher bots are often disappointing
Easily our best headline of the week was this one: Bots are the new apps, only they suck (for now). It’s succinct, clear, a little jarring and honest — everything we strive to be on a daily basis.

Six months ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella declared that bots are the new apps. In one crucial respect, he was totally right, concludes Max Willens (again!). Bots are growing in popularity. The rub: People have trouble figuring out how to get news from them, and publishers are having trouble figuring out how to deliver it in a way that aligns with users’ experiences there.

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Research Briefing: BuzzFeed pivots business to AI media and tech as publishers increase use of AI

In this week’s Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine BuzzFeed’s plans to pivot the business to an AI-driven tech and media company, how marketers’ use of X and ad spending has dropped dramatically, and how agency executives are fed up with Meta’s ad platform bugs and overcharges, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.