The Science Behind Buzzfeed's Viral Content
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Despite its push in recent years to move beyond listicles featuring cute cat pictures and 90s nostalgia and into legitimate journalism, Buzzfeed’s most popular articles are still mostly written at a level that a 9-year-old can easily understand them.
For comparison, both Huffington Post and CNN are written at a higher average reading level than Buzzfeed, but, of course, the sites have different audiences and different types of content.
The lesson here is that you have to know who your audience is, what they’re looking for, and how to adapt your content to best appeal to them.
List posts are inherently shareable and are typically quick and easy to read or scan over.
Does it mean that listicles are the magic bullet for viral success? Of course not.
It does serve as a reminder that catchy headlines get clicks and easily scannable content is ideal for the web.
At Buzzfeed, the average headline of a viral post is right around 10 words and just under 60 characters.
There is some importance to those numbers. At 59 characters, the title won’t get cut off in search engine results (Google typically cuts off titles that are longer than 70 characters) and won’t exceed Twitter’s character limits when shared.
The average Buzzfeed article we analyzed was just 155 words long.
To put that into context, the average 3rd grade student can read 150 words per minute. An 8th grade student can read 250 words per minute.
In other words, Buzzfeed’s articles are designed so you can read them quickly and easily, share them, and get on with your life. They’re often heavy on the images and GIFs, and light on written content.
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Generalist. Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
Buzzfeed clearly has a formula which they follow that helps their articles get more social media shares, more traffic, and more buzz.
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