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Yahoo has launched a Buzz widget for mobile users, allowing them to browse and ‘buzz up’ top articles from the past 12 hours. Alternatively, iPhone users can do this here, via an optimised version of Buzz aimed specifically at the sexy Apple handset, though no dedicated iPhone app is yet available in the iTunes Store.

Yahoo says the mobile widget can be found by searching for ‘Yahoo! Buzz’ from within the widget gallery.

This is another sign that Yahoo is looking to drive up usage of Buzz, its social news play, although there is more work to be done if it really wants to usurp Digg as the number one social media website.

Buzz is often referred to as a 'Digg killer', but the truth is that they are two very different beasts. More than a Digg killer, it might be something of a Yahoo saviour.

Buzz is Yahoo’s way of a) getting into the social media space, b) finding the news that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks, c) reaching out and moving closer to publishers that may have been off the Yahoo radar, and d) driving interaction among Yahoo users, both on Buzz and via MyYahoo. It should be key to Yahoo's future strategy, if it can gain widespread awareness among its massive user base.

It certainly works well, it has a good amount of users already, and it can only become bigger… assuming Yahoo makes the right moves.

Buzz is growing its user base with every passing month, delivering a steady stream of traffic to third party publishers. This growth will be given a serious shot in the arm if / when Yahoo chooses to promote Buzz more widely throughout its web properties. There was a noticeable spike in usage when Yahoo made an announcement about Buzz on its homepage. Imagine what a permanent, prominent link would do...?

For example, Buzz would fast overtake Digg in the traffic stakes were Yahoo to promote Buzz it in the same way it has promoted MyYahoo. It makes sense to do this, as these two user-driven initiatives seem like happy bedfellows. To this end Yahoo has already rolled out Buzz modules for MyYahoo users, as well as a Buzz Up button for its toolbar. There’s a lot of scope for Yahoo to further increase interaction among its users, who trust the Yahoo brand and seem keen to participate. It’s win-win all round.

Perhaps the most serious sign of intent would be for Yahoo to add a ‘Buzz’ link next to the MyYahoo! Link on the homepage. At the time of writing, there are no direct links from Yahoo’s homepage to Buzz. Presumably it’s a question of when, not if, these links materialise.

Yahoo could also Buzzify its channels and blogs, and also Yahoo News (all of which are heavily reliant on Big Media sources for news, eg AP, Reuters). Yahoo users are already sending signals to Yahoo about the sources they like by ‘buzzing up’ stories. That said, six of the 15 stories on the Buzz homepage are in fact Yahoo properties, at the time of writing.

One of my websites, Hecklerspray.com (an entertainment blog), took part in the 400-publisher strong Buzz beta. Referrals from Yahoo Buzz have been steadily increasing over the past few months, making it a worthwhile endeavour for publishers to undertake (the site is now open to all publishers). The key benefit for publishers is the chance to appear on Yahoo’s homepage, and bait doesn’t come any tastier than that. "Like turning on a tap," wrote one pundit.

But as it stands, the problem for publishers is that there is only a finite amount of space on Yahoo’s homepage for ‘featured’ stories. These are links to other parts of Yahoo (eg the sports blog), which feature links to a handful of Buzz sources. Having been lucky enough to see this in action, I can confirm that it is just like turning on a pair of high velocity taps. Imagine what a direct link from the Yahoo homepage would do?

So although the chances of appearing within a ‘featured’ story are currently slight, Yahoo Buzz as a destination is growing and should become much bigger in the coming months. And that’s where the real opportunity lies, both for Yahoo and the publishers.

A Yahoo source told me that it is “definitely looking at places where we could integrate Buzz more widely across Yahoo!.” We publishers are waiting with baited breath.

Spot the difference

I have noticed some key differences between Buzz and Digg. I analysed Hecklerspray’s traffic over a six week period, to make sense of our social media traffic. During that time Digg and Yahoo Buzz each generated six-figure page impressions for Hecklerspray, so they’re both excellent sources of traffic.

Here are a few observations…

  1. Digg referred three times as many people as Buzz. A handful of stories made the homepage on Digg, while just one hit the homepage on Buzz. Right now there's limited scope to win big on Buzz.
     
  2. 90% of Digg users bounce vs 80% for Buzz.
     
  3. Buzz users spending at least twice as long on the site than the average Digg user.
     
  4. Buzz users are four times more likely to read other articles on the site.
     
  5. Almost one in five Digg users had visited the site before, vs one in ten for Buzz.
     
  6. Digg users seem to prefer feature-driven articles, while Buzz users prefer news and gossip.
     
  7. Both sites drive awareness, increasing the amount of traffic from other social media sites such as StumbleUpon (which beats both Digg and Buzz in terms of engagement rates, time spent on site, and average number of page views per user).

There are all kinds of reasons for these initial findings, and I know we’re not really comparing apples with apples, but it’s interesting nonetheless. It's still early days for both sites, by my reckoning.

Of the new mobile initiative Yahoo says: “This is just another step in an ongoing process to provide consumers with access to the content of their favourite internet sites and communities while on the go. As with all products at Yahoo!, we will continue to improve Yahoo! Buzz - look out for even more updates over the next couple of months.”

Publishers will be watching with a keen eye. If you haven’t yet signed up for Buzz then aim here.

Chris Lake

Published 16 September, 2008 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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