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How BuzzFeed is sharing more content insights than ever before with its advertising partners


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

August 9, 2019 | 6 min read

BuzzFeed is telling brand partners exactly what their customers are reading across the publisher's myriad of platforms. The online publisher's new tech has so far only been trialed in the US, but on the back of promising results, it’s planning to bring it across the pond to the UK in the coming months.


How BuzzFeed is sharing more content insights than ever before with its advertising partners

BuzzFeed’s journey to being able to package up clearer audience data for advertisers came with a tie-up with Permutive, an ad tech specialist which works with publishers to find and unlock revenue. BuzzFeed wanted to shift away from its cookie-dependent data management platform (DMP) which, though one of the building blocks of its move into programmatic advertising, was “missing a lot” including any kind of audience insight, especially on what was happening on Facebook Instant Articles and Google's AMP.

“Those are two areas where we have a lot of traffic,” explains Josh Peters, BuzzFeed’s director of data partnerships. “We knew that about a minimum of 50% of our audience was hidden inside Facebook Instant Articles.”

Aside from these holes, the quality of the data it had in its two-year-old DMP diminished quickly, meaning it was unable to build an understanding of what its readers were doing across platforms over any period of time.

Permutive is a tech provider for publishers which doesn’t rely on third-party cookies and instead collects and processes information that's been stored by the owner of a domain.

Almost immediately, BuzzFeed was able to find nearly double the audience it could sell to advertisers. In cases of particular niche audiences, this rose to 60 times the targetable audience which Peters believes had been completely lost in Facebook Instant Articles.

“We had increased scale, increased visibility, and better audience data all around,” he adds.

With this clarity, BuzzFeed has made its commercial offering more compelling. It can see more reader behaviours and package these for an advertiser to buy.

Advertisers can also input their own customer data into this DMP. BuzzFeed can then break down exactly what content that advertiser’s target audience likes and how they spend their time across its platforms.

“We had a lot of problems with our previous DMP with ingesting client data,” says Peters. “For some of those advertisers, that's become the table stakes; if we can't do this, they won’t work with us.”

He declined to name specific clients who had benefitted from the new strategy but said one major adopter is in the finance industry while another is a “very big search company".

It’s also helping its affiliate clients. Take Amazon for example. BuzzFeed is one of the biggest drivers of traffic to Amazon and for the recent Prime Day shopping event it wanted better insight on that audience.

“We tried to capture that audience with our previous DMP, which required us to make a bunch of tracking pixels. Then we had to take those tracking pixels and make sure our editors knew how to implement them on every single page, and use separate pixels for the ads. The coordination and all of that was a Herculean effort. It was impossible to coordinate across a big event like [Prime Day],” he says.

With Permutive it can instantly build a picture of audience behaviors and deliver that back to the advertiser. Peters said that the value of the ‘Amazon Prime Day’ audience on Buzzfeed is “easily worth a couple of hundred thousand just on programmatic inventory” and the insights gleaned can then be used on similar events like Black Friday.

“That one audience can be reused for that advertiser to generate hundreds of thousands more, it's the exact audience that they're looking for,” he continues.

With this increased insight and visibility, Peters says that he’s seeing a shift in the performance metrics that marketers want. Yes, they still need CPM and viewability stats, but more frequently BuzzFeed is seeing RFPs that are far more data heavy.

“They want to know what if they can get access to the data after,” he says. “I’ve filled out more data requests on what advertisers can get from us than I have in five years. They do want to know that like after the campaign, what can you give us? What will you transfer to us? Will you give us mobile ad IDs?”

How much it gives back is still something Peters is trying to work out – why will advertisers buy the milk if it gives the cow for free?

It’s still early days but Peters is quick to herald the early wins it’s seen. It’s “reduced the barriers” that gave advertisers an excuse not to spend with Buzzfeed.

“The big indicator that we're looking for is the renewal rates. We're really only six months into using it [but] it's helped us really secure business, reoccurring business, with some of these advertisers."

And then, of course, it’s helping BuzzFeed compete against Google and Facebook’s offering.

“From an advertising perspective, you don't really get a lot of information back when you go to Google. You can't really take your first-party data, upload it to Google and say, ‘Google, tell me everywhere these people go’. That's not going to happen. But when they come to us, we can go, okay, yes your audience are really big in these categories. This is their interest. These are the things that are actually doing on here,” says Peters.

“That's going to be a big advantage. Publishers who can work with their advertisers and give them these types of insights that they don't get from Facebook or Google on what does their audience do outside of their realm.”

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