Article by Mathew Bailey, Ovum analyst
BuzzFeed’s new mobile video app, BuzzFeed Video, is testament to the growing importance of video to the digital operations of all media companies. Even if it appears to go against BuzzFeed’s recent focus on distributed content, BuzzFeed Video fits into the company’s wider strategy of increasing the amount of time viewers spend with BuzzFeed video content; collecting strategically relevant data on viewing habits; and centralising content on a dedicated platform. In typical BuzzFeed fashion, I have broken my thoughts on BuzzFeed Video down into nine main talking points.
1. It offers BuzzFeed a platform-agnostic distribution channel
The app uses its own video player, so each video plays in its native format regardless of the platform it was originally intended for (i.e. videos made for Instagram have a square aspect ratio, while Snapchat content occupies the whole screen). This means that BuzzFeed can continue to focus on its distributed content strategy, while still having a central hub for its video content. The technology in the app could also be used to streamline the company’s video operations in the future.
2. It allows BuzzFeed to collect a greater amount of data on its users’ activities
A unified, owned platform and automatically enabled Quantcast tracking give BuzzFeed more control over metrics, allowing it to collect meaningful data that compares consumer interaction across content types, regardless of platform. This will enable BuzzFeed to bolster its pitch to advertisers and also inform other areas of its distributed content strategy.
3. It showcases each of BuzzFeed’s video brands in one single place
The app prompts users to associate certain “shows” with BuzzFeed. This increases brand recognition for BuzzFeed, allowing for the cross-pollination of shows’ audiences – something that is less likely when content is distributed across different social platforms. BuzzFeed will hope that the most engaged users will discover content in the app before sharing it to other platforms through the app’s integrated sharing feature.
4. Autoplay, silent play, and immersive mode make for a simple, engaging experience
Autoplay gives the app a simple, Facebook-like feel in terms of how videos are surfaced to the user, automatically engaging users and encouraging “binge watching.” Users scroll through videos which, by default, automatically play in silent mode; however, unlike on Facebook, once a user has opted to turn sound on, subsequent videos in the feed will also play with sound. Additionally, once a user stops scrolling on a particular video, the rest of the feed is dimmed to create an immersive viewing environment for that video. With these features, BuzzFeed is looking to offer a more streamlined viewing experience on its app than those found on other major mobile video platforms.
5. Videos are automatically surfaced to users through a “trending” section
Curated, “lean-back” video experiences are becoming more important as online content libraries grow and discoverability is diminished. BuzzFeed Video’s “trending” section addresses this problem while retaining the social aspect that has been vital to BuzzFeed’s rise to prominence.
6. Push notifications promote recurring engagement with the app
Data from app analytics firm Localytics suggests that 25% of app users abandon an app after just one session. Therefore app developers need to focus on user retention. BuzzFeed uses Emoji-laden push notifications to alert its (mostly young) user base that new videos are available from the shows that they have subscribed to in the app. It also does this for shows that they are not subscribed to. Although undoubtedly a bid to promote user retention and drive engagement with the app, such notifications might be seen as intrusive by some.
7. BuzzFeed is looking to increase in-app dwell time
Much has been made in the press about the BuzzFeed Video app allowing users to “binge watch” video content, and features such as the trending section and autoplay will be used to promote continued binge watching with a view to increasing in-app dwell time. This is important because the mobile video industry continues to focus more on the amount of time viewers spend watching content rather than the number of videos viewed as a measure of value to both consumers and advertisers.
8. Indirect monetisation will come from sponsored content, not standard ads
As ad-blocking becomes a routine part of the mobile experience, many advertisers are looking to sponsored content, which blurs the distinction between advertising and premium video content – and which BuzzFeed is already active in producing for clients. BuzzFeed Video does not feature pre-roll or banner ads. Although this move mirrors the trend of content owners wanting more control over the distribution of their content (i.e. by avoiding less favorable advertising revenue-sharing agreements), direct monetisation on a traditional AVOD basis is not the aim here. Instead, BuzzFeed will hope that its sponsored content is found, watched, and shared to other platforms by users.
9. There is no guarantee of widespread usage
It is still early days for BuzzFeed Video: It currently has “10,000+” downloads on Google Play, so it is too early to decide on its success. Although the app is more likely to be popular among dedicated BuzzFeed fans, it will be a hard task to convince more casual viewers that the app is worth using ahead of the highly engaging, more varied platforms that they already use to consume BuzzFeed’s video content, such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.