'BuzzFeed' Distributes Print Newspaper In NYC

BuzzFeed brought its content to a different format yesterday — not a podcast or new licensed product line, and no virtual reality. The digitally native entertainment and news company tackled analog, publishing a print newspaper for one day only.

BuzzFeed handed out 20,000, 12-page newspapers for free. It included reviews of noise-canceling headphones, a printed version of a BuzzFeed quiz and printed screenshots of a gif of Glenn Close's reactions at the Oscars. 

A page is dedicated to “What no one tells you about NYC,” another feature looks at millennial burnout. The cover story spotlights a strange phenomena around the Momo Challenge, a hoax that swept the internet, and the fan art inspired by the character.

BuzzFeed “newsies” wore logo-stamped vests and tote bags and passed out the newspapers from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Union Square, Penn Station and Herald Square in New York City on Wednesday March 6.

The activation was a joint effort between Ben Kaufman, the newly appointed BuzzFeed Chief Marketing Officer and Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief, as well as Jessi Probus, an entertainment-lifestyle writer.

“We printed out the internet,” Smith said in a video on Twitter, as he helped pass out newspapers in Union Square.

When asked what the motivation was behind the initiative, Kaufman told Publishers Daily it was simply “a fun way to start people’s day.”

“We have a long history of doing unexpected things,” he said. “Weird stuff is happening online ... so being able to hand people a newspaper full of fun stories and things that BuzzFeed is known for, we thought was a fun, quirky idea.”

He added: “There was definitely some marketing exposure that came along with it, but also we felt like it would be a fun project internally.”

What did BuzzFeed learn from the process?

“That we love the internet,” Kaufman said. “A printed piece of media is different than a newspaper — there’s a lot more work put into it. We will stick with the internet.”

Kaufman and Smith found a large number of BuzzFeed employees had experience in print publishing, which helped them realize the effort.

The back page of the newspaper features coupons for digitally native brands, such as Ritual, Jet and Casper. 

The codes can be redeemed for discounts, which will help BuzzFeed measure how many people “got to the back page, and how many use those coupons,” Kaufman said.

After publishing this one-time newspaper, Kaufman said advertisers were reaching out asking to get into the next edition.

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