BuzzFeed Launches First Video App, Plans to Test Short Exclusives

BuzzFeed fans spend more than 100 hours per month checking out the company’s content, with video taking up the biggest share

Stars of BuzzFeed's Violet troupe of video talent stand together in a press photo

Online news and entertainment company BuzzFeed unveiled its first video app Tuesday, aiming to spur more sharing by diehard fans of its exploding video content and to test days-long exclusives on some of the videos it creates and owns in house.

BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO Jonah Peretti debuted the app at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, in a presentation that stressed how it aims to capitalize on the convergence of three trends: mobile behavior, social sharing and the popularity of online video generally.

The move underscores BuzzFeed’s focus on developing and owning all of the properties that fuel its growth. Aided by a savvy apparatus that studies the viral spread of its content, BuzzFeed generates more than 6 billion monthly views of videos, articles, lists and illustrations across its site and other apps and over social networks like Facebook and Snapchat.

That pales in comparison to the total views on a site like YouTube. But, unlike Google’s massive site, BuzzFeed owns all the content, reserving more of the revenue and branding rewards of all that viewing for itself.

Video has exploded as a share of the company’s total views in the last few years. In 2014, a restructuring created BuzzFeed Motion Pictures as the company’s arm dedicated to experimenting with video. The studio ended up launching a slew of ongoing franchises like Violet, in which young women lampoon awkward situations, and the Try Guys, featuring a group of young men who insert themselves into pop culture memes.

Earlier this month, the company said its visitors spend more than 100 million hours a month on its content, with video representing both the biggest proportion of that time and the area of greatest growth.

The new video app aims to give BuzzFeed’s diehard fans an easier way to find — and share — the videos produced by its Motion Pictures unit. Jesse Shapins, BuzzFeed’s director of product focusing on apps, said in an interview with TheWrap that the company’s app users share content five times as much as a website visitor. If the video app can mimic that trend, the company could be set for another explosion in sharing.

Launching the app also will let BuzzFeed experiment with exclusive windows on its video for the first time. The Try Guys franchise will post new content a few days earlier in the app than anywhere else.

The app is free to download and watch. It won’t have any ads running ahead of a video or interrupting viewing in between them. Instead, the app will accommodate the sponsored content that is BuzzFeed’s trademark. BuzzFeed’s creative and video teams work with brands to create these original, custom clips — also known as native advertising — like a 3-minute video imaging how an elder housecat might school a new kitten, sponsored by cat-food company Friskies.