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Where do you go for a news update and a quick laugh? If you’re like me – and 200 million other users worldwide – your first port of call is BuzzFeed.

This week, the social news and entertainment organisation added another string to its bow by launching its new technology, Pound. Standing for Process for Optimising and Understanding Network Diffusion, the tool has been created to help the website understand how its content is really shared from one user to another, through all downstream visits.

Although there are other well known web analytic programmes, such as Google Analytics, Clicky and Mint, BuzzFeed apparently felt that they only provided a limited insight in to the social web. Such websites collate viewers according to where they accessed the article and then tell us how many people clicked from where. This data is invaluable but, as 75 per cent of the site’s users come from social sources, it wanted to be able to track what really happens. Whether one of its stories is tweeted, a follower picks it up and shares it on Facebook, or one of their friends sees it and posts it on their blog, and then a reader emails it to their friends.

Created with the aim of being able to really understand its readers – and the social web – BuzzFeed hopes to use the data to achieve a bigger reach and impact for its audience across the world.

Pound has taught BuzzFeed a few things already, which are invaluable insights:

  • Every post has hundreds and thousands of initial sharers, some of which have a lot of downstream links, some of which have cross-network multiplications and some which simply have nothing.
  • The site’s sponsored content is shared and re-shared, just like its editorial content.
  • Following the site’s ‘what colours are this dress?’ post, which was viewed over 38 million times, the data collected showed how a viral post spread via millions of sharers across social networks, messaging systems, new sites and blogs for the first known time in history. Interestingly, clicks on the site’s Twitter account represented only a quarter of the shares rooted in this source. This shows how important it is for brands to be able to value the entire downstream cascade and not just organic click-throughs.

BuzzFeed’s move is the first step in what I imagine will be a lot of data-driven decisions. So, will other news sites follow in its footsteps? We’ll have to wait and see