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BuzzFeed’s video content plans

MUMBAI: Media site BuzzFeed is expanding its horizons. Through its division BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, it is also focussing on creating video content.

President Ze Frank and production advisor Michael Shamberg spoke at the on-going television trade event MipTV in Cannes, France about the progress that this division is making. They both feel that there is enough room for both long form and short form content. BuzzFeed doesn’t have to educate viewers about longer videos. The two forms serve very different purposes, but they can also be mutually beneficial to each other.

“We really want to lean in to where the people are. Putting things behind paywalls and making it hard to access and stuff.. there are some cases to be made for looking at that as a business model, but the way shortform content can move in such a frictionless way around the web, that’s a fantastic way to build affinity with shows and characters. And that affinity will translate over to larger stuff,” said Frank Shamberg noted that everyone’s watching longform content through platforms like Netflix and Hulu. “Longform narrative is already part of the DNA of the digital experience. Look at what Netflix did with ‘House of Cards’ which essentially branded Netflix. Everything is already here. now, and we’re going to migrate from what BuzzFeed does to the system that’s already there. We just need to bring something fresh to it.”

Shamberg noted that Buzzfeed has an advantage over the traditional Hollywood system. “The great thing about BuzzFeed is that there’s no R&D system in Hollywood; no studio makes a movie to see if they want to make a better movie. The studios don’t have the capacity to innovate at all, because the amount of capital is so large, and they move so slowly.

“BuzzFeed is a big R&D lab” The strategy is that if a two-minute video proves popular, then the division makes more of them and iterates. “How could you scale that out to a narrative that’s say 22 minutes for a television show or 100 minutes for a movie?

“Ultimately we’re all selling feelings… And the genius of the BuzzFeed system is it’s all based on feeling. It’s almost an anomaly. People think the internet is all about digital data, but BuzzFeed is all about feeling: why do you wanna share something, what’s the emotional gift?.. It’s a whole fresh way to approach the system in terms of coming up with content.”

Frank noted that the division has made over 3,000 videos in the last two years. Today it makes over 50 videos a week and manages to attract a billion views a month. “The reality is that when you’re in a time that is dominated by social distribution, the stuff that spreads to you is the stuff that you’re going to define the brand by. If your friends are sharing a lot of silly stuff with you that’s how you’re gonna think of BuzzFeed’s content.”

In a changing media environment one’s brand has many different definitions depending on what the consumption habits are. “We recognise, especially being in Hollywood, that here is an entire craft base that isn’t really about social distribution… we think a lot about how to make content specifically for the social streams… but on the other side, and this is the world that Michael has been a major force in, it has to do more with this affinity to character and stories and losing yourself in the stories. That kind of psychological engagement which is outside of social conversations and things like that.”