Why The Future of Content is ‘Audience-First’: Insights from Buzzfeed’s James Lamon

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Last month, JIN employees attended a webinar with James Lamon, Head of Content Europe at Buzzfeed. A creative content master, Lamon leads the content department and is responsible for all branded and editorial material on the platform. His talk centralised around the shift in media consumption over the years and why brands must now focus less on pushing their messages out to the mass market with a hope that they will resonate on a large scale and instead focus on understanding the existing wants, needs and behaviours of their audience before adapting their content to align with this. Content created in this fashion is coined ‘audience-first’.

Of course, marketers have long since known that without considering the specificities of our audience, communication campaigns are likely to get lost in the ether. However, being truly audience-first goes beyond this. Lamon describes audience-first content as “content that addresses the personal, individual needs of a real human person” and emphasises that while it can be easy to forget, we should always keep in the forefront of our minds that our audience is a collection of individual people whose social media feeds are tailored to their own personal interests.

While Buzzfeed enthusiastically champions this entirely consumer-lead approach to content creation, they are not the only pioneers. In a bold statement Todd Yellin, Vice President of Product at Netflix stated “Geography, age, and gender? We put that in the garbage heap”, going on to explain that rather than segmenting on demographic, Netflix now groups its users into “clusters” based solely on their content preferences.

So how do brands become more ‘audience-first’, and how can marketing agencies support them with this? Lamon provided the evolution of the hugely successful Buzzfeed owned brand ‘Tasty’ as the perfect case study to explain this. He explained that Tasty was not created with the objective of becoming the multi-million dollar food industry it is today but instead had the simple goal of making great food videos that people would love. Through an extensive test-and-learn strategy and continual content adaptation based on audience feedback, the Buzzfeed team saw Tasty videos become such an overnight success that the decision to expand into branded consumer products came naturally. Today Buzzfeed has a huge range of Tasty products available to buy including cookbooks, branded hobs, seasoning kits and even dog treats. Lamon states the way Tasty was built, starting with great content and later transitioning into commercial sales, is a solid example of a new ‘media brand’ and embodies the future of brand advertising.

To summarise, in order to create audience-first content, brands and agencies must first go back-to-basics and consider the fragmented, interactive and deeply personal nature of the social media landscape today. They must ask themselves what people are watching, why they are watching it and where their brand fits in. If a brands’ content achieves the goal of being highly engaging and relatable to its audience, only then can it effectively break through the noise.

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