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BuzzFeed Quizzes: What Data Set Do You Belong To?


Online personality quizzes are going viral. The website BuzzFeed says their quizzes, which ask questions like which Harry Potter character are you or which city should you actually live in, break Web traffic records. But are these seemingly silly and inconsequential quizzes only for fun? With tens of millions of people filling them out, it could be a marketer's dream.

What could all this online data mean for advertisers? We turn now to Kate Kay, a reporter for Advertising Age. She joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

KATE KAYE: Hi there, Scott.

SIMON: What are they doing with all this stuff?

KAYE: OK, so right now, and I actually confirmed this with Buzzfeed, a lot of this is speculation. What they're doing is just tracking what the final results of the quizzes are. So they're not even tracking, like, whether or not you gave a particular response to a particular question in the quiz.

SIMON: Well, I took a quiz before we began, which was trying to determine which piece of art I am. They don't show you the pieces of art and say which, you know, do you identify with most. But they ask you what to my mind would be a series of seemingly disconnected questions, like how dark are you. And then it goes from black to white and, you know, mostly shades of gray. I was Georgia O'Keefe.

KAYE: Oh my goodness.

SIMON: Actually I was quite flattered, and I'm not afraid for the world to know it.

KAYE: OK, so you want to share that on Facebook now because you like the answer, right? That's what BuzzFeed wants out of you. It's like this endless traffic loop.

SIMON: Yeah. Do you ever take these quizzes?

KAYE: Honestly, the first time I took one of the quizzes...

SIMON: No, no, no, make something up for us. It's much better.

KAYE: No, I actually never even took one until I was asked to speak about them, and I found them sort of intriguing, and I'll definitely be taking them more as someone who looks at how marketers use data because I do think that BuzzFeed is going to use that information at some point.

SIMON: They just haven't figured out how to use it yet?

KAYE: Oh no, they know what they're going to do. They wouldn't have those questions written the way they are if they weren't eventually going to compile that information and use it to inform where their ads should go and who should see their ads. That is ultimately what they're going to be doing with it. And they're - and right now, as far as I can tell, they're sort of conditioning people to respond to these certain types of questions, so like when they do start compiling the data that way, it'll just be like oh yeah, this is the way the quizzes are. And then down the road adding a what kind of vacation do you like to take?

SIMON: So if I might put it this way, when we take these quizzes now, we're being, along with a lot of other people, fattened up for the advertising kill?


KAYE: Yeah, I think there's something to that. I think the quizzes are written a certain way because they do want to end up collecting that data and using it.

SIMON: Kate Kaye with Advertising Age, thanks so much.

KAYE: Thank you very much.


SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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