Chatbots, vines, user generated content – new media formats and trends come and go, fueled by the rapid development of new technologies. To be fully prepared for the future, Strelka Magazine asked Buzzfeed product manager Sabrina Majeed and director of global adaptation Millie Tran what changes in the media landscape are coming soon.
Media outlets will become either more cross-platform and global, or more niche. Media managers will either really know their small audience, or build huge audiences with different interests. Everything in the middle is going to be really hard to promote and develop.
We don’t think that readers don’t have the patience for big articles. One the best performing features on Buzzfeed is 6000 words long. If the content is really good, it doesn’t matter how long it is. People still watch documentaries, even though they ignore long videos on Facebook. That means that the trick is not to make content shorter, but to find a suitable platform for it. New technologies are allowing people to interact with what they are consuming, therefore they spend more time on a website. Features are becoming more interactive, and people won’t stop reading them.
Instant gratification formats
We are never going to get rid of things that are instantly gratifying: short polls, tests that give you a simple answer, a prediction after just one question or click. Audiences want something that will give them an immediate feeling or result. We can continue to learn from that, try new topics, formats and types of content. There will always be ways to experiment.
Clickbait headlines on Social media
The desire to drive audiences back to your website from other platforms might be short-sighted. It is easier to get exposure on social media, and there will always be a loyal audience that goes directly to buzzfeed.com. This is why Buzzfeed creates a lot of content specifically for social media platforms, without even adding a link. To us, it’s more about building a brand that people love and trust then just sending someone back to our website for a click.
Augmented reality and Virtual reality
Buzzfeed has a project called Open Lab that focuses on new technologies, AR, VR and every possible thing you can think of. No one’s figured them out yet, which is why we are still talking about it. It is important to have a space for people to dig deep into how we can use new technologies in the near future. At the moment VR and AR technologies are expensive, and therefore hard to share, but there are signs we’re getting there: 360 videos, for example.
User generated content
User generated content began as a news reporting tool – , and it is interesting to watch how it evolves. We don’t use tips for users in a systematic way, but we do experiment with UGC. One of the last experiments we did was BuzzBot, an automated chatbot for Facebook's Messenger app. We launched BuzzBot just before the Republican National Convention 2016, so he would ask users that are attending the convention for photos, videos and opinions. And of course we have Buzzfeed community, and it is a great way for people who just love Buzzfeed’s format or our CMS can experiment with them and sometimes make really great content. Our team does a really good job of highlighting that: we push content created by users in the real world, translate it into different languages. UGC is never going away, because everyone needs to work with their community.
It is easy to think this bots are cool and fall for the trend, but you always have to ask yourself: what’s the use of this? If doing something with the bot takes longer then it normally would, why would anyone use that?
Software solutions for media created by other companies are often not suitable for the scale BuzzFeed is working at. We have very specific needs, and our in-house development team creates specific tools just for us. At the same time, our developers are open sourcing a lot of their products and code, so that other organizations can try it too. That’s one of the ways to test products, better understand how they can be used and receive feedback. We might but third-party software from time to time, but we end up creating our own.