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Know Your Audience, Reward Your Audience

The Internet has successfully ravaged my attention span. In fact, in the construction of that intro sentence alone I somehow managed to:

• Update my Facebook status
• Check my horoscope on The Onion
• Totally derail my train of thought

Me plus millions of others, apparently. BuzzFeed understands the nature of the beast and, utilizing a legion of similarly afflicted visitors and staffers supernaturally adept at stumbling upon cool items, capitalizes on the fickle nature of Web trending on a daily basis. In their own words:

“We are a viral tracking Web site with 4 million monthly visitors, a viral network with over 50 million monthly impressions, and a viral media platform with awesome technology for launching and optimizing content. In short, we’re the best place to find out what’s going viral online, and the first place to start if you want to make something go viral.”

In addition to its own trend-sniffing staffers, who no doubt each own heavily eroded iPhones, the site allows users to submit trends deemed worthwhile — usually in the form of embedded videos, pictures or links. The BuzzFeed editorial staff promotes items of worth, visitors in turn share the content via their own means and a trend is born. Every day.

So imagine the excitement felt ’round the community when the site announced its Feed Battle, which lasted from March 30-April 15. The contest’s rules were simple: develop a “feed,” or categorical content filter, with with an interesting niche or angle. One example feed submission was Whiteboards, which shared only content that featured funny/touching/clever phrases and drawings squeaked onto, you guessed it, whiteboards. First prize, which was determined by number of hits, went to Bearfeed. Guess what that feed features. The spoils for the winner? A popular feed with tons of followers, plus the tech-geek-Holy-Grail-du-jour, an Apple iPad.

But BuzzFeed is the big winner. Ignoring time-related costs for contest development, minimal site interface upgrades and assuming BuzzFeed paid full retail for the prized Apple iPad, the Feed Battle realistically cost no more than $829 to implement. And yet now they have dozens of user-submitted feeds, each of which have the potential to take off and generate more hits for the site.

Props to BuzzFeed for capitalizing on its audience — those dedicated users without whom the site would not be the success that it is. And the term “capitalize” in this case seems dirty, as each of the entrants clearly had a ball throughout the process.