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Published May 2nd 2015

Why BuzzFeed’s Most Shared Content Format Is Not What You Think It Is

One of Site A’s most shared articles in the last month is a listicle on how to make small changes to improve your life. One of Site B’s most shared pieces content of the same month was has over 2,000 words. Which site is BuzzFeed and which is The Guardian?

Site B is BuzzFeed and Site A is The Guardian. There is a myth abroad that major publishers are about serious content whilst BuzzFeed is all about list posts, quizzes and short catchy, even fluffy, content. The data shows that the truth is much more complex. My analysis of the posts from the two sites over a 10 day period shows how major publishers and Buzzfeed are learning from each other to drive traffic and shares.

The content analysis

I reviewed articles published from 1st April to 10th April 2015 using Buzzsumo for BuzzFeed and for The Guardian.

BuzzFeed published 2,420 articles in the period which received an average of 5,263 shares each.

By contrast The Guardian published 6,717 pieces of content which received an average of 485 shares.

The data findings

The most shared articles on BuzzFeed were List posts followed by How-To articles as can be seen below. In the case of the Guardian the most shared posts were Why posts followed by How-To posts.


Long form content performs well consistently

On the analysis above you might suspect that BuzzFeed’s short list posts consistently get the most shares on average. However, whilst the majority of the content published on BuzzFeed is less than 3,000 words, the long form content performs significantly better with an average of 38,000 shares. The difference in the level of shares for long form v short form content is actually much more marked for BuzzFeed than The Guardian.

Our research has found that long form posts consistently perform well in terms of social sharing. This is something that is not lost on BuzzFeed. They have a team of experienced journalists that produce quality, long form articles that resonate with their audience.

Individual picture list posts have viral potential

Long form content appears to do consistently well, whereas short list posts with pictures are a more hit and miss affair as to what will resonate and go viral. That said, the most viral individual posts tend to be Picture List Posts. Some of these posts really resonate with the audience and break out of the pack to become the very top performing posts. This is true of both BuzzFeed and the Guardian.

In the period I examined, the top BuzzFeed post was a Picture List Post on BuzzFeed that received over 300,000 shares.

32 Pictures That Will Give You Intense Elementary School Flashbacks

 The top Guardian post in the period was also a Picture List Post which received over 500, 000 shares.

Overpopulation, overconsumption – in pictures


The future is not what it was. BuzzFeed and the major publishers are learning from each other when it comes to driving traffic and shares. They are constantly reviewing what works and experimenting with content formats such as quizzes, picture posts, headlines and with engaging long form content. As a consequence the differences between the sites in terms of content formats may be far less marked in the future.

Inspired by Buzzfeed and intrigued to explore some different content formats? Take a look at our guide on how to create a viral quiz.


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