My generation—Generation Y—is here to wreck everything, obviously. We don’t respond to traditional advertising anymore, and we prefer getting our news from Twitter instead of the New York Times (or at best, @nytimes). Many brands have tried to reach millennials through Facebook, but it’s unclear whether or not that’s successful. Marketers pore over information about where we, as a generation, hang out on the Internet and work to get their brands in front of us.
The newest break-in approach for acquiring the 18-35 market has one main basic concept – an “old” brand buys or partners with a “young” brand. For instance, Yahoo! recently purchased Tumblr and CNN is partnering with BuzzFeed.
These two companies are bringing very different skillsets to the table. CNN is a traditional news source, which provides quick, 24-hour news. They focus on accuracy and getting the information out there before others. BuzzFeed, on the other hand, brings us stories about Google Streetview capturing someone kicking their girlfriend out and 18 ways that hot dogs are the perfect food. While entertaining, these aren’t exactly breaking news stories.
We do love videos
Recent apps like Vine and Snapchat—and the success of YouTube—show that there’s a rapid increase in use of video social media. If you’re not familiar, Vine is an iPhone app developed by Twitter that allows a user to create six-second videos and share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter and Vine itself.
Snapchat is primarily used for photos but can be used for videos, too. Snapchat enables one user to send a picture or video to another user for a limited amount of time (from just seconds to a couple of minutes) before it’s deleted from the receiver’s phone. In theory, this prevents these funny, embarrassing and sometimes nude pictures from being shared, but Snapchat is currently in media hot water—because screenshots are causing these “private” pictures to go viral.
The use of apps like these proves that young people do love their short videos. So it seems that BuzzFeed and CNN have caught on to what’s currently considered “cool” and are using it to their advantages. BuzzFeed gains tons of new content to play with and big name backing, and CNN hopes to gain a younger audience and repair their reputation.
Because we love videos, it’s likely that CNN will gain some younger viewers. However, it’s unlikely that these types of videos will help repair CNN’s reputation as a credible news source. For instance, in researching this post, I went to CNN’s site. I expected dull content (what can you possibly broadcast and write about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?), but instead I stumbled upon hilarious tech articles. My generation will love this sort of thing, if they make it that far. I’m not sure if CNN should be banking on the idea that viewers will read or watch CNN content after seeing these short clips. They’re more likely to go to BuzzFeed to view similar content.
There is talk that maybe CNN and BuzzFeed will try to make less-than-two-minute news videos. The millennial in me is super-stoked—I would love to get my news in less than two minutes. However, the journalist in me is screaming in anguish. They can’t possibly do a major news story justice in less than two minutes. It takes CNN two minutes and 20 seconds to tell you about a delivery guy who eats pizza toppings off customers’ pizzas. How are they going to manage telling viewers about tornados, floods and other assorted disasters in less time? (Currently, big news story videos are 3-6 minutes long.)
Unexpected bonus for CNN
One bonus CNN can take from this exchange, if it isn’t a reputation repair, is exposure to BuzzFeed’s business model. BuzzFeed sells sponsored content instead of traditional ads. This model has worked out well for the company.
Since traditional advertising and Internet advertising are both declining due to ineffectiveness, news organizations that have traditionally relied on advertising are now looking for ways to make money while keeping users happy. Pay walls and subscription fees are being adopted by many news sites, but BuzzFeed’s approach may prove to be more lucrative and effective, especially because of us millennials who won’t pay for things we can get for free elsewhere.
It’s an exciting time for advertising, journalism and social media. Hopefully the partnership between CNN and BuzzFeed will benefit both parties, as well as the journalism and advertising industries as a whole.