What's the deal with BuzzFeed's 'slide' things?

BuzzFeed did not invent the photo slider, Alice DuBois wants you to know: "A lot of other sites have them," BuzzFeed's director of editorial products said. But BuzzFeed's products team strives to keep getting new storytelling formats in front of editors, she said, noting that the publication had a lot of success with quizzes. (One of those quizzes, "What State Do You Actually Belong In?" is BuzzFeed's most popular post of all time, with more than 41 million views.)

The sliders, which DuBois said took about two months to build, have lots of potential applications -- in news (a before-and-after a natural disaster, she offered by way of example) as well as in entertainment. Two recent slider posts have done impressive traffic, BuzzFeed spokesperson Christina DiRusso said: "How Much The Kardashians Have Changed In Less Than A Decade," which has 2.6 million views, 1.8 million of which came from social, and "34 Celebrities Who Share The Same Face," which has 1.8 million views (1.3 million from social).

A section of John Gara's celebrities post.
A section of John Gara's celebrities post.

DuBois demoed the feature to BuzzFeed staffers July 1, then opened up the tech to a few of the editors and "creatives" -- BuzzFeed-speak for the people on its native-advertising team.

(I've previously reported that DuBois' meetings about updates to the CMS are frequently met with applause; when I asked her how the sliders went over, she said, "Oh my God, it was like, gasps.")

Not everyone on staff has the slider-tech yet, DuBois said. (Celebrity editor Whitney Jefferson asked for beta permission and published her Kardashian post on July 2.) There are still a few bugs to work out -- it's "laggy" on Android devices, for example, and it's a "bit sluggish" on the Facebook browser. BuzzFeed's culture is "very much an approach of build something, launch something, iterate on it, don't spend months and months getting it perfect," she said.

And even when organizations do strive for perfection, they usually discover bugs upon launch, DuBois said. "It’s not like we would launch something that was terrible -- once you get it to a place that’s good, we like to get it out there and continue to refine it from there." The publication's developers like getting feedback from people who are using their tools, too.

The sliders don't solve any particular editorial problem -- "it’s not like it’s impossible to compare two photos without a photo slider," she said. This just gives the reader more control, and it's almost second nature for people used to smartphones to swipe at photos.

The biggest problem was developing something that worked well across platforms. "Any format we have to build is going to have to be awesome on mobile," DuBois said. BuzzFeed has no plans yet to roll out the slider technology to its community users, only some of whom have access to quizzes.

DiRusso acknowledged that BuzzFeed is publishing fewer quizzes these days, but DuBois said the sliders aren't necessarily there to pick up the slack: "I do think there's a part of the editorial mission to keep pushing and experimenting," she said. "People get tired of seeing the same thing over and over."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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