BuzzFeed took its first steps into commerce by focusing on relatable gift guides like “19 gifts only science geeks will fully appreciate,” and a few weeks ago, it started a new section called BuzzFeed Reviews, a consumer product reviews page not dissimilar to Wirecutter or Reviewed, with product reviews in categories including tech, beauty and lifestyle.
Unlike most of BuzzFeed’s consumer brands, Reviews is based on search rather than social distribution. Other BuzzFeed brands, including Nifty, Tasty, As/Is and others will distribute Reviews content to build brand awareness. That means BuzzFeed Reviews will live on BuzzFeed’s main domain for the foreseeable future, but it could potentially wind up living under a separate domain name, a BuzzFeed spokesperson said.
The goal is to monetize BuzzFeed Reviews principally through affiliate commissions, though other revenue streams will include programmatic advertising and content licensing, where BuzzFeed might sell an endorsed product the right to use a BuzzFeed seal of approval in its marketing, or distribute the post with said endorsement to BuzzFeed’s audience. As one might expect from BuzzFeed, the publisher is also exploring ways to incorporate branded content, though it hasn’t figured out an appropriate format yet.
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has listed commerce among the revenue streams he wants to grow as BuzzFeed diversifies away from socially distributed branded content. But the product reviews space has gotten increasingly crowded, as more publishers explore affiliate commerce as a revenue stream. BuzzFeed Reviews will have to compete not only with institutions like Consumer Reports or Gannett’s Reviewed or search-focused publishers like Dotdash, but with fast-growing brands like Wirecutter, which saw enough growth in its own brand to launch its own deals holiday earlier this month.
To differentiate, BuzzFeed Reviews will produce guides that offer recommendations at three price points. Rather than geek out on minutiae with product category experts, the guides will be produced in consultation with BuzzFeed staffers who are in the market for the items being reviewed. The goal, according to BuzzFeed Product Labs head Ben Kaufman, is to deliver a review that is relatable, rather than overly technical.
Product reviews and endorsements are, on some level, already core to what BuzzFeed does with its affiliate commerce content, which a 19-person team churns out daily. Reviews content will be slightly more involved, according to BuzzFeed Market director Jessica Probus, who will oversee BuzzFeed Reviews. In some cases, Markets writers, who create BuzzFeed’s affiliate commerce content, may transition over to the Reviews team.
Even before shopping content became a big focus for BuzzFeed, product reviews represented some of BuzzFeed’s most read pieces. For example, a piece written by one of its tech reporters, Nicole Nguyen, “I used the crap out of the new iPhone 6S and this is what happened,” was one of the most popular pieces on the site in 2015.
The decision to build a Reviews brand was also motivated by part by the success of “Worth It,” a video series where hosts try one reasonably priced and one outrageously expensive version of the same product and compare them, which recently wrapped up its fourth season. A BuzzFeed spokesperson said visitors had watched 1.5 billion minutes’ worth of “Worth It” in 2018.
In an effort to distribute its content, BuzzFeed rebranded its Facebook page, BuzzFeed Buy Me That, which has over 540,000 followers.