How Viral Upstarts Are Dominating the Social Web

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Across Facebook and the Twitter feeds recently, Upworthy, Buzzfeed and Gawker have become as commonplace as names like The New York Times and the Daily Mail. With an increasing focus on virality and shareability newer media sources are making big gains over older, traditional media organizations.

Neetzan Zimmerman, Senior Editor for Gawker, is one of the current viral kings of online news. His blog posts generate upwards of 30 million pageviews a month, dwarfing the traffic generated by the rest of the Gawker staff. While Zimmerman may be a little grandiose in his statements about what he does — claiming to be “plugged into the foundation of man” — he’s clearly got his finger on the pulse of what inspires sharing.

On December second Buzzfeed announced it received 130 million unique visitors in November, with Google, Twitter and Facebook referrals all reaching record highs. The top dogs of news right now on social aren’t the traditional media, they’re the viral upstarts.

Here are four things Washington Post Wonk blog columnist Ezra Klein says old media companies need understand if they hope to keep up.

  1. If you create content for the social web, the social web has massive potential to drive traffic.

  2. Pay attention and it’s pretty easy to reliably predict how social media will react to a particular piece of content.

  3. Because of expanded page supply, more virality also results in lower CPM, so don’t sell the brand’s soul for clicks.

  4. The biggest thing hobbling old media’media’s social shares is that its approach is largely is largely the same as its print approach.

If sites like The New York Times hope to unlock the kind of page views, with the subsequent glory and revenue that Gawker and Buzzfeed enjoy, it’ll have to write for the audience it wants to attract.

Image credit: pasukaru76

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