How BuzzFeed’s Tasty Conquered Online Food

 

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No one knows who invented the overhead food video. Like image-macro memes or Slender Man, it most likely emerged in some primordial message-board swamp. But like everything else online, the format has since been refined, professionalized and monetized, and today most of these clips are produced on media assembly lines in Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo and London by a single entity: Tasty, a division of BuzzFeed that has turned the overhead food video into a hypergrowth business.

…BuzzFeed is obsessive about learning from past successes, and once it finds a theme or format that hits, it tends to repeat it until it’s dead. That’s why you’ll see a lot of videos featuring cheese, steak, bacon and pasta, some of the most popular ingredients. And it’s why Tasty videos always feature a money shot.

“Cheese pulls and gooey chocolate are so satisfying to watch, and those frames almost make you gasp out loud because they look so good,” Ms. King said. “We try to create those moments in every video, whether it’s an indulgent ingredient like cheese, or a fun way to use up leftovers, or cooking food in a way you haven’t seen.”

BuzzFeed’s latest traffic trick: The ‘social URL’

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…BuzzFeed has even tapped the humble URL to work harder. The social publisher has discovered that writing original, made-for-sharing URLs can act like a rocket booster for a post.

BuzzFeed stumbled on what it calls the “social URL” by accident. The URL was once created automatically using the first few words of the headline. Several months ago, the publisher created a field in the CMS to allow editorial staffers to tweak the URL in case a word in the URL was cut off, or if they wanted to alter the URL in case the headline changed drastically. It wasn’t long before edit staff started to notice they could play around with the URL, to good traffic effect.

 “It has a bit of an Easter egg quality,” said Jack Shepherd, BuzzFeed’s editorial director. “It’s not something people immediately notice. It’s more fun for the reader, it’s more fun for the writer, and it can often make the post more shareable.”

…There are no guidelines at BuzzFeed for writing social URLs, but there are a few common uses:

Instructional social URL:
Actual headline: 1 Chart That Explains Why People Are Wrong About Venn Diagrams
Social URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/also-its-pronounced-oiler

The clever-wordplay social URL:
Actual headline: 28 Snapchats From Harry Potter
Social URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/snapechat

The tabloid headline-style social URL:
Actual headline: This Boston Marathon Survivor Wrote A Breakup Letter To Her Leg Before Amputating It
Social URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/adios-leg