Why Marketers Should Care That 50% Of Millennials Read Buzzfeed

You already knew BuzzFeed’s audience is massive (to the tune of 200 million uniques per month), but more interesting to brands and content marketers is how they dominate among millennials. Half of all millennials in the US read BuzzFeed. Half. According to the US Census, millennials are the largest generation in the history of the country, weighing in at more than 80 million people. This gives them unprecedented access to the phones, screens, and inboxes of the largest and most powerful generation of buyers.

“Publishers are going to win the content war,” says Joe Puglisi, Director of Creative Strategy at BuzzFeed. “As brands take their creation in-house and entire businesses are built on content marketing, the only two things left to be proprietary will be the audiences and the technology behind distribution.” BuzzFeed’s not worried about social either – the publishers with the audience hold the power. “They are just the tracks,” says Puglisi of Facebook and Twitter. “BuzzFeed is like the train that can move along all of them. Did advertisers pay the people making TVs to put ads on them? No! They paid the networks.BuzzFeed is the new network, decentralized and democratized.


buzzfeed millennials content marketing
Joe Puglisi in the BuzzFeed office.

According to Puglisi, the best way for brands to get on board is to think quality first, above all else.

“Content marketing on the internet is a shiny new playground for smart advertisers to experiment and learn,” says Puglisi. “Let’s not waste it on the same old mistakes of display [advertising].”

We spoke with Puglisi ahead of our webinar: “Creating Content For Millennials: Why It’s Important + Strategies For Success,” on July 22 at 1pm EST. Registration is still open!

NC: First – can you explain what being the Director of Creative Strategy at BuzzFeed means and share what you did previously in your career?

Puglisi: So as the Director of Creative Strategy, I manage a team of folks who help our partners plan for a content program with BuzzFeed. We educate, pitch, and help execute our creative plans and work closely with our business team to keep the fundamental principals of BuzzFeed (making things that people want to share) as a core part of all creative. The team was built on the foundation of the work I’ve been doing at BuzzFeed, traveling with our sales force to riff on ideas and route internal resources. Creative Strategy is about planning and alignment — our top clients are getting a lot more than just a series of BuzzFeed lists. In a previous life, for many years, I ran the editorial program for a video production site called Baeblemusic. I do miss the free music.

Why do you think BuzzFeed has found such massive success with a millennial audience and how do you plan to evolve this strategy to grow your audience to Gen Y and aging millennials?

Millennials are the first major generation that have almost always had the Internet and don’t think of information flow the same way as their parents. Traditional media is about massive reach, but today’s savvy consumer expects and avoids disruptive messaging, and curates the stories that matter most to them and their friends by subscribing to feeds and filtering out the noise. BuzzFeed made two very important decisions early on: no disruptive messaging (like banner ads), and focus on optimizing the individual pieces of content, rather than a major destination. Build an engine for the content to travel to the right person, rather than expecting them to come to you. It’s a simple, but elegant way of rethinking the way stories move in today’s complicated media landscape — allowing for the democratization of content through sharing.

What are some of the latest millennial trends or insights BuzzFeed is looking at that brands should be aware of?

I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you (or charge you).

Just kidding. The reality is that “Millennial” just isn’t deep enough to glean insight from our mountains of data, and demographics can only take you so far in the planning phase of content creation. We have tons of trends and insights to offer, but it depends on the interests and the behaviors of the person the brand is trying to target, not just their age. And it’s the combination of this science and the art of BuzzFeed (Why do people share stuff? How can we iterate and experiment?) that makes our branded content really take off. 

buzzfeed millennials content marketingPuglisi with BuzzFeed Account Manager and friend Dan Katt at the BuzzFeed holiday party.

We know that mobile-friendly content, video, micro, and social content resonates with millennials. What types of content do you see resonating with millennials that most people or marketers are not aware of?

Real content. Content of value, in context. The reason mobile-friendly, video, and micro/social content work broadly for Millennials (and everyone, really) is that the context of these types of content make sense for the environment they are being consumed in. Are you on your phone? Looking at Facebook? You expect to see stories or added value type content. So in that space, that’s what we deliver. A 30 second spot is built to be consumed as an interruption to something you actually want to see, and is thus only effective if it grabs your attention and quickly makes a value proposition. Ever wonder why they crank up the volume on the commercial break while you’re marathoning Chopped? Meanwhile, why would some share your scream-y spokesperson trying to cram salty snacks down your throat while you get up to get a glass of water? This world deserves a better class of advertiser, and I’m (we’re?) going to give it to them.

Which brands do you feel really “get it” when it comes to millennial marketing and can you give some examples of specific campaigns that you thought worked really well?

GE stands out as an amazing example of a brand with content marketing acumen. They do a lot of things but they have the most important unifying thread: a cohesive vision, and purpose. Show the world we’re more than just refrigerators. GE works for Millennials but they are not marketing to them. They are marketing to humans. That’s the key to winning any demographic – tell stories that provide value and match their interests.