BuzzFeed, which built a massive audience by distributing to others’ platforms, is testing a Snapchat-like format in its mobile app.
Over the past couple weeks, BuzzFeed has been showing a daily digest of content, similar to the Stories format popularized by Snapchat and Instagram, in its mobile app.
The BuzzFeed Stories digest, which appears at 10 a.m. for just 6 percent of the app’s audience, features repackaged GIFs, still images and animations that drive readers to BuzzFeed’s quizzes, listicles, videos and news articles. Teams inside BuzzFeed, including its news and shows divisions, are working on original content for the BuzzFeed Stories format, as the platform-powered publisher puts more attention on its own properties.
“We’ve really leaned into distribution over the years,” said Andrew Paulus, a senior product manager at BuzzFeed responsible for the Stories feature. “But we want the app to be the best place for users to consume the best content.”
While several publishers have had trouble growing sizable app audiences, BuzzFeed has averaged over 500,000 downloads per month across the Apple App Store and Google Play and has an estimated monthly active user base of 2 million people, according to Apptopia. It has had an average rank of No. 10 in Apple’s App Store over the past year, per Apptopia.
Two editorial staffers from the publisher’s curation team are testing which kinds of content work best, while others are trying different placements for the module. The Stories digests will also remain ad-free until BuzzFeed is satisfied with them, Paulus said. Reaching that point would help find a more suitable place for the autoplaying ads BuzzFeed added to its app recently, which have displeased some longtime users.
Other publishers have mimicked Snapchat’s vertical content style, like Mashable, which took cues from Snapchat with a recent app redesign. More than 110 publishers now sell vertical video ad inventory on their owned-and-operated properties, according to MediaRadar.
One outcome of the tests was that people preferred consuming BuzzFeed content in a Stories format, compared to the app’s current layout, which offers tabs for brands like Shows, Tasty and BuzzFeed News. By testing a new feature, it’s possible that Paulus and his colleagues stumbled onto a new look for the app.
“If that’s something that happens, it’s a good thing we started on it now,” Paulus said.