One of the more compelling stories in digital media over the past year has been the continued success and momentum of BuzzFeed.
Many of us are already familiar with their addictively clickable headlines and penchant for serving up other catnip of the interwebs, but the brand is also expanding into more mainstream news coverage to provide users with their daily diet of content.
Their strategy thus far has, by all accounts, proven to be extremely successful.
In the past year, BuzzFeed has tripled its U.S. multi-platform (i.e., desktop and mobile) audience to 71.3 million visitors in March. The growth rate itself is incredibly impressive, but even more so considering that it had already achieved a level of scale with more than 20 million visitors a year ago.
A net addition of nearly 50 million visitors in one year is nearly unprecedented, and it easily ranks as the fastest-growing web property among the top 100 over the past year.
BuzzFeed's Mobile Usage Happens Primarily via Browser vs. App
One might wonder how BuzzFeed has been able to achieve such an impressive growth trajectory in such a short period of time. The short answer: it has very successfully leveraged social platforms – particularly Facebook – to help drive traffic.
Those clickable headlines and quizzes you see in your Facebook News Feed are driving a considerable amount of click-through activity to BuzzFeed, both online and through mobile.
Let's focus on mobile for a moment. While desktop traffic for BuzzFeed has roughly doubled in the past year, mobile traffic is up nearly five times!
This mobile momentum is rather dramatic, but also makes sense when factoring in Facebook's significance to the overall mobile landscape, now accounting for 20 percent of total time spent on smartphones and tablets combined.
But what's interesting about BuzzFeed's mobile consumption is that it is very different from how people typically access content on these platforms, in large part because of how people arrive at BuzzFeed.
Specifically, 58 percent of mobile time spent on BuzzFeed comes via mobile web vs. 42 percent on apps, in stark contrast to the 84 percent/16 percent app vs. mobile web split seen across the web overall.
Increasing App Usage Can Pave the Way to Even Greater Success
So BuzzFeed has largely bucked the norm in that it's built an enormous mobile audience in spite of relatively limited usage of its mobile app. But those BuzzFeed mobile app users, as it turns out, are significantly more engaged users of BuzzFeed, spending 24 times more time on average than the mobile web users.
Now, 8.3 minutes per visitor for mobile web users is significant – that's a pretty good average engagement for a content site. But the 202 minutes per visitor among mobile app users is almost otherworldly and suggests significant upside for BuzzFeed if they are able to convert a percentage of mobile web users to mobile app users.
Once users are within the walled garden of an app, they tend to view more content, more articles, and become loyal and engaged users of that media brand. That BuzzFeed has demonstrated such strength in mobile absent this sort of interaction on a large scale means there is potentially a lot more room to grow.
Other media companies looking to succeed in mobile might take a page out of BuzzFeed's playbook, and realize that Facebook and other social channels represent the fastest way to build mobile audiences at scale. Once that audience reach is achieved, additional strategies to convert this audience to loyal app users should be used to increase overall engagement and improve mobile content monetization.