Buzzfeed is an interesting site to try to write for. In my mind, I have the site divided up into two major sections: normal Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed News.
The reason for this divide is pretty clear. When you think of Buzzfeed, you generally think of the first herald of the clickbait apocalypse, the bringer of something you’ll find out if you click through, the great deceiver. This is the Buzzfeed that gets share trillions of times on Facebook and Twitter, that hooks every soccer mom and vapid millennial with the promises of some animated gifs of Parks & Rec, that steals a ton of its content wholesale from Reddit.
Buzzfeed News, on the other hand, is a surprisingly intense and rigorous journalistic resource.
It has some high profile people doing some very good reporting, including digging deep into original sources and covering topics that some mainstream media outlets seem hesitant to cover. I mean, just compare these two posts:
- 14 Situations That Will Make all Women Say “F*** That’s So True”
- Your Annotated Guide to The Questionable Facts and Figures in Trump’s Document Axing the Clean Power Plan
The first one is a giant pile of random stock photo women with text thrown on top of it, each one with a headline. It’s mildly humorous, but there’s no substance to it. Heck, imagine if you tried publishing that to your own site. It has less than 200 words in it! There’s nothing for Google to index and you’d almost certainly be penalized for thin content.
The second one, meanwhile, is also full of images, except those images are screenshots of the document the president of the United States is using to repeal an important piece of climate protection legislature, along with a ton of analysis. It’s “only” 700 words, but it does exactly what it’s purported to do.
Here’s another example. This piece is an extremely deep analysis of documentation, analysis, and information about how a few prominent figures like Milo and Steve Bannon have been working to make Nazism and White Supremacist more acceptable to the mainstream audience, despite their foundation in an abject violation of human rights. It’s a 9,000-word piece with diagrams, fact checking, links to sources, and a lot of detailed analysis.
In short: not the kind of thing you’d ever expect to find on Buzzfeed.
Buzzfeed started life as a clickbait website, one of the first of its kind and by far the most successful. Since then, dozens of others have popped up, many of which have affiliations with George Takei and get shared all over Facebook repeatedly. In order to stand out and Do Something with their position, Buzzfeed opted to go into serious journalism. They use the money they make from their massively popular clickbait laced with ads, and they funnel it into sponsoring detailed investigations that other agencies barely touch.
Contributing to Buzzfeed News
Obviously, if you had to choose between the two, you would want to be on the more authoritative side of Buzzfeed, the News section, right? Well, yes, but there’s a problem with that. You uh, probably can’t.
Buzzfeed takes contributions from the community, but they don’t publish community posts in the News section. In order to be part of the team that publishes content for the News section, you need to actually work for Buzzfeed.
All is not lost, though. You can, in fact, get a job for Buzzfeed. Here’s a listing for a Data Reporter job, which is one of the people who write for the News section. If that listing is dead – which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn after a few weeks or months from publication of this post – you can just browse through their job openings here.
Of course, getting a job at Buzzfeed is, well, getting a job. It’s not a one-time guest post, it’s not going to earn you many links, and it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a serious, real responsibility, and it’s far outside the scope of guest posting.
There’s one other potential way to get your link or content to appear on Buzzfeed News, and that’s through submitting a tip. Buzzfeed has an anonymous tip system, where you can alert their journalists to something they might be interested in. You can submit a tip here.
The problem with this method is two-fold. Firstly, you need to have a tip that is relevant to some kind of current event that they’re likely to cover. Politics, social scandals like the Harvey Weinstein thing, cutting edge tech issues and concerns like the ongoing Wi-Fi security Krack issues; these are items you can cover. Things like “the best SEO tool you haven’t heard about” that happens to be your tool? No thanks.
The other problem is that tips are anonymous and there’s no guarantee they’ll mention your site, link to you, or otherwise benefit you in any way. The only way I can think to get this to work is if you write a report about the subject in a journalistic style on your site, and then submit a link to that report as your tip. If you’re extremely lucky, the journalist who picks it up might link to you as a primary source for the information.
All of that is far too many hoops to jump through for something that’s probably not going to happen, though. Instead, focus on normal Buzzfeed.
Contributing to Buzzfeed.com
Mechanically, it’s incredibly easy to contribute to Buzzfeed. They have a whole post about how to do it, but I’ll cover the salient details here.
First of all, much like Cracked, Buzzfeed has a natural filtering system for user generated posts. In order to create a post, you need to register for the Buzzfeed Community. You can register using this link.
Once you have created an account, you have access to the Buzzfeed Community section, where you can make posts that are limited in visibility only to that section. Anyone who browses the Community section – here – can see any post any community member has made. However, those posts do not get linked to, circulated, or otherwise exposed to the rest of Buzzfeed. They won’t appear on the front page, they won’t show up in the site’s social media, and they generally just languish with the rest of the user generated content.
The exception is for, well, exceptional posts. When you make an extremely good post, it’s possible that one of the Buzzfeed editors will decide it’s good enough for promotion to the main site. This is your primary goal: to get your post on the main Buzzfeed site and out of the Community cesspit.
So what does it take to graduate from Community to the main site? First of all, a warning. Do not be promotional. Buzzfeed used to have Community Brand Publisher accounts to do sponsored posts, but they no longer support them. If you try to write and publish a post that is entirely self-promotional or aimed at commercial growth, it’s more likely to be deleted than promoted.
Any time you write a post, it needs to stand on its own as valuable, and it can only include one link to your site at maximum. Ideally, that one link will be mixed in with several other links to equally valuable content. Your link should never point to a landing page. Instead, aim it at a valuable and relevant piece of content that ties into the main subject of the Buzzfeed post.
For the actual mechanics of making and publishing a post in the Buzzfeed Community, visit this article. It’s the Buzzfeed tutorial for using their content management system. Their CMS is an interesting modular system that standardizes their format without making you learn which tags should go where, so I recommend taking a few minutes to read through that post.
This brings up a good opportunity: embeds. Buzzfeed media is often embedded from its source on Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram, or any of a dozen other sites. This means that you can do roundabout promotion by using semi-promotional descriptions for content on one of those other social networks, then embedding that content – assuming you have the rights to it – in your Buzzfeed post.
Now, another very important tip: if you want the Buzzfeed editors to check out your post and see if it’s worth being promoted to the front page, you need to click the “suggest for community feature” box. Since the Buzzfeed community is huge and there are hundreds of people trying to publish content every day, this saves the editors a lot of work. They mostly only check out content that is suggested to them.
Use this submission wisely! You only get one per day, and if you abuse it too much there’s a chance they’ll remove the ability altogether. Don’t submit crap; use your suggestions sparingly. You can gradually earn more (via “cat power”) as your posts are promoted, granting you other special perks as well.
Here are some resources you might find helpful when creating your Buzzfeed Community submissions.
- The Buzzfeed Community FAQ. This gives you more information about creating posts, suggesting posts, properly using links, what “cat power” is, and other common questions.
- The Buzzfeed Community Brand Guidelines. This is mostly a list of What Not To Do when trying to get your post published. Avoid promotion at all costs!
- The Buzzfeed Community General Guidelines. This is the general list of acceptable behaviors. Don’t troll, don’t hate, don’t spam, don’t post porn, don’t copy content, etc.
- The Buzzfeed Content Resource Guide. This tells you their policies on using media, how to embed from various sites, and what is and isn’t allowed.
So how can you work to ensure that your posts are actually promoted to the main Buzzfeed site?
Earning Promotion on Buzzfeed
First of all, write excellent content. When all else fails, it’s high quality content that makes it through. The less effort you put in, the less likely you are to get that promotion.
Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough, don’t get greedy and try to be promotional. This applies constantly, even once you’ve gotten a post or two promoted. If they decide you’re being too promotional, like a brand account, they can and will not just remove your account, but your posts as well. Those can be valuable links, so don’t screw it up!
I generally recommend that you stick to the standard Buzzfeed format. You don’t need to go full no-words listicle, but you shouldn’t try to rock the boat. They got where they are by doing things one specific way; it works, so give it a try.
If you do manage to get a post promoted to the main site, don’t be afraid to pay for some promotion from sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Twitter. Incoming social traffic gives a post more “social lift” and gives a post more internal promotion as well.
Since you’re generally compiling a list of external content or resources in typical Buzzfeed fashion, you can get some extra mileage from sending an email or DM to the people who you mention with the link. Just a simple “hey, I mentioned you on Buzzfeed, it would be super cool of you if you could share the link with your audience” is plenty.
The Last Resort
If at first – or second, or third – you don’t succeed, you can always get someone else to do it. There are people who regularly contribute to Buzzfeed, either in the Community or elsewhere, who are willing to use their position for your advantage.
This one is an example – not an endorsement – to show you what I mean. This gal, Alaricia, sells her services on People Per Hour. For about $120 or so, she will take your link and subject, and write a piece of her own that incorporates it in a way that will be publishable on Buzzfeed. You don’t get to submit the content, though, to avoid compromising her account.
Of course, the DIY approach is cheaper and better if you can pull it off. You can just always pay someone if you can’t manage it yourself.