I recently read a great article about BuzzFeed’s different revenue models.
Most popular websites only monetize in a few different ways:
- Banner ads
- Sponsorships (usually a logo on the website’s header)
- Paid access to premium content (NYT/WSJ, even Medium are all trying to execute this properly)
That’s about it.
In some cases, publishers will try to sell products, books, and/or services on their sites because they assume, since they have the traffic/audience, these will be easy sales.
But this rarely works the way people assume. As soon as a site has been established as a “free knowledge resource” it’s difficult to convince people to suddenly pay for additional knowledge.
What BuzzFeed has done differently to market themselves to today’s younger demographics is not only diversify their revenue models, but create (and actually OWN) sub-brands that are successful on their own.
The best example would be their viral video brand, Tasty.
You’ve most likely seen Tasty’s viral videos in your Facebook news feed.
Their Facebook page has over 91 Million Likes and has positioned itself as the go-to resource for fast, “tasty” meal ideas in video form. What Tasty did to differentiate themselves from the competition, however, was all in the execution of their videos. Recipes aren’t new. Fast recipes aren’t new. But videos shot in a way that leave your mouth watering because every single frame is jam-packed with something delicious happening (moving in time like a story) are almost impossible not to watch.
“Proof of concept” was Tasty’s first step in the right direction, and through the execution of their videos they earned an audience.
The truth is, most brands never make it past this first step.
Instead, brands spend all this time trying to figure out how to monetize before they even figure out what works well enough to attract a loyal following.
BuzzFeed prioritized getting the content right first, before they worried about how they were going to ask for people’s money. This, right here, is what appealed most to Millennials (and a lot of brands and businesses don’t understand this mode of thinking).
Once Tasty proved itself popular, BuzzFeed went about monetizing it in a bunch of different ways, none of which entailed compromising the quality of the product they were delivering to viewers.
Most popular websites or channels tend to do the opposite when they find success. They immediately destroy their quality in search of monetization (for example: cluttering the entire site with ads).
Tasty diversified and went about monetizing like so:
- Landed a cookbook deal with Penguin Random House curating Tasty recipes.
- Ad revenue via Facebook content publisher platform.
- Tasty One Top cookware product.
- YouTube shows like Mom V.S Chef
- Big Brand partnerships with Wal-Mart, Jet.com, etc.
- And more…
These different ways of approaching “making money” as a business speak volumes to where BuzzFeed’s head is at in terms of marketing to younger generations.
Young people don’t want to be sold to.
They want to be entertained — and then having the option to buy something related nearby.
This is what BuzzFeed has done extremely well, and Tasty is the first of many brands they have and will continue to develop in-house. Millennials, Gen Z-ers, and the generations to follow are interested in being entertained, first.
They want to get hooked, to become loyalists, to be part of something that gives more than it gets.
Once that dynamic has been set, monetizing is about delivering something extra on top, something unexpected but worthwhile — a value add.
The brands that can understand this pivot will succeed and be around for a while.
The ones that don’t will very quickly begin to die off.