The Israeli Quiz Factory That's Outbuzzing BuzzFeed on Facebook

So long, Viral Nova. Hello, PlayBuzz.

On Oct. 7, NewsWhip, a business that tracks how content moves through social networks, published its monthly analysis of the top publishers on Facebook. Not surprisingly, the Huffington Post, a social media stalwart, topped the rankings, having accumulated more than 9.4 million shares on Facebook in September.

The runner-up was a bit more unexpected. Coming in second was a site called PlayBuzz, which racked up more than 7.5 million Facebook shares, good enough to top the industrious meme-behemoth BuzzFeed (which finished third with 6.2 million shares), as well as Fox News (4.1 million), NBC News (3.0 million), and the Guardian (2.8 million). “Seven of the 10 biggest Facebook stories of last month (likes + shares + comments) were PlayBuzz quizzes,” reported NewsWhip.

These days so many newfangled sites are cranking out Facebook-friendly photo lists, stunning walrus pics, and celebrity quizzes that it can be difficult to keep track of the distinctions between, say, Viral Forest and Viral Circus, or Slightly Viral and Absolutely Viral, or Upworthy and Distractify. Perhaps as a result, PlayBuzz’s No. 2 finish left many observers of the viral media rat race scratching their heads.
 
“WTF is playbuzz,” wondered Adam Clarkson of Chartbeat.
 
“Had not heard of playbuzz until this moment,” wrote Southpaw.
 
“wait what is playbuzz” wrote Darth.
 
Here’s a refresher: PlayBuzz is a startup company located in Tel Aviv that was co-founded by Shaul Olmert, the NYU-educated son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The site, which was launched in 2012, primarily publishes the kind of personalized quizzes (What Type of Rapper are you?What Coldplay Song are You?Which Breakfast Food Are You?) that have proven to be irresistible to large numbers of Facebook users.

Back in March, BuzzFeed published an article referring to PlayBuzz as a “BuzzFeed knockoff” and a “BuzzFeed clone.” Olmert did not respond at the time. But a few months later, he told the Wall Street Journal that PlayBuzz was no BuzzFeed imitator. “BuzzFeed is a great website,” said Olmert. “We, on the other hand, are a network. Our strength is not in in-house editorial, but in empowering users, publishers, and brands to create their content.”

According to the Journal, PlayBuzz shares its out-of-the-box quiz formats with a range of traditional publishers, including Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Washington Examiner, which in turn steer traffic back to the site. In viral media, originality is often beside the point, and PlayBuzz’s popularity is growing. In May, the site attracted 4.8 million unique visitors in the U.S., according to comScore. By August, the audience had jumped to 9.1 million. Thanks to its strong showing on Facebook in September, expect PlayBuzz’s numbers to soar even higher.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced it was tweaking its algorithms to cut down on the amount of low-quality click bait appearing in users’ news feeds. So far, the crackdown does not appear to be hurting PlayBuzz. The onslaught of viral quizzes is probably just getting started. So next up: “What’s your anger type?

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