Buzzfeed has long been a king of data-driven content, using numbers to identify and leverage its creators’ most effective stories, quizzes, headlines, images and video. Now, according to Digiday, the company has taken a logical next step: pushing the data out into the newsroom so creators can do their own deep dives.
Buzzfeed built a data-management tool for its editors and creators called Lookr. It allows them to tap into and understand the vast mound of data on how Buzzfeed content performs across all kinds of sites, and they don’t need serious data-science chops to do so. Now the staff is using Lookr to chase down all kinds of content-creation hunches and ideas, to see what works and what can be done better.
While democratizing data across the organization is a very smart move for Buzzfeed on many levels, I think it’s also an important example of why creators need to get more savvy about how to use data. In the newsroom of the future, understanding data is going to be an essential skill set for everyone. Buzzfeed is helping that process along with a platform that doesn’t require creators to know SQL to ask a simple question.
And by democratizing data access across the staff, Buzzfeed is realizing a side benefit. Now, its small data-science team no longer spends its time looking up material for everyone else. Instead, it can focus on building more cool tools to further automate the site’s smart use of data.
I love some of the cool new tools, too. There’s a chatbot that notifies overseas bureaus when a Buzzfeed piece is trending in their territory. They’ve also launched a machine-learning tool that figures out the best-performing thumbnail images. That’s exactly the drudgerous scut work that should be offloaded to an automated tool that can surface useful information and shortcut the demands on staff.