5 Questions on CNN and BuzzFeed’s New Social News Channel

28 May 2013 - By TW Staff

As part of efforts to continue expanding its digital footprint and connect with younger audiences, CNN announced a partnership today with social news aggregator BuzzFeed, to launch the “CNN Buzzfeed” YouTube channel.

Using CNN’s current and archival video footage, BuzzFeed will create exclusive news and entertainment content in the mash-up video format its best known for (if you’ve seen “The Angriest Babies in The World” you know what we speak of).

The partnership melds CNN’s credibility as one of the world’s leading news sources to BuzzFeed’s youth-focused bent – 70% of its traffic is social and nearly half is mobile – while also extending CNN’s brand to more video-driven 18-to-34 year olds.

In the announcement, KC Estenson, Senior Vice President of CNN Digital called it “the perfect modern day media collaboration.”

We wanted to know more, and thankfully KC took time to answer a few questions about the strategy behind this innovative partnership.

Why Buzzfeed? What are you hoping to see as a result of this partnership?

BuzzFeed represents a young, interesting, urban audience, and it’s overtly geared toward 20-somethings. The site’s content is irreverent, buzzy (no pun intended) and clever. At CNN, we have a long and deep brand history that is a little more formal and traditional. The goal is to merge these two news organizations together and expose both of us to audiences that we wouldn’t normally reach.

Why now?

Jeff Zucker (President of CNN Worldwide). We had a lot of digital initiatives prior to this partnership with BuzzFeed, and when he arrived, we started talking about new ways to continue to stretch our brand. Jeff has a good feel for what’s going to be interesting to an audience and embracing that. I sat down with Jon Steinberg (BuzzFeed's President & COO) a few weeks ago and we started hammering this out. Right now, we’re aggressively focused on upping our metabolism, becoming more nimble and trying new things, so we moved quickly on this.

What else can we expect from this partnership?

We’re going to create original list posts that will be pegged to news events. These lists will have an irreverent, edgy, funny, BuzzFeed feel to them. It’ll give us a chance to do things we may not traditionally do on CNN. We can let our hair down a little bit on cnn.com. (See the debut list post here).

BuzzFeed manages other YouTube channels, so this is an area they’re familiar with. Is that one of the reasons you decided to partner with them?

They have an innate skill. BuzzFeed knows how to manage a YouTube channel, build subscribers, handle responses to videos, and they’ve been very successful at it. With more than 100 million views a month for videos posted on cnn.com, these are skills that we have proficiency in, but we’re getting a chance to work up close with the BuzzFeed team and see the art and science of this from the inside out. We’re interested to see what they would do with the CNN brand, and make it more appealing to a wider audience.

Any final thoughts?

It’s been really important point to me in the five years I’ve been here to push the envelope, to innovate, and try new things. We’ve had pioneering partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, and VICE for example. Jeff Zucker reinvigorated that spirit of innovation. He reminds us to not take ourselves too seriously, hold ourselves to our values, and be the trusted name in news. All of that is critical for us to continue to have long-term success.

Subscribe to the CNN BuzzFeed YouTube channel here and watch one of the first mash-up videos below showcasing amazing rescue moments captured on CNN.