Whisper it softly, but BuzzFeed has a new source for viral stories

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Anonymous gossip-sharing apps Secret and Whisper are the toast of Silicon Valley, but now the latter is set to become the latest source of material for news site BuzzFeed.

Whisper and BuzzFeed have struck a deal to turn updates from the app's users into stories on the website. The New York Times reported the partnership this weekend, suggesting that "no money will change hands" in the process.

"BuzzFeed is just a natural partner for Whisper. It is teeming with the sort of content we will be good at," said Neetzan Zimmerman, Whisper's editor-in-chief. "There is no way to capture content and have it live beyond eight hours here, so why not have it live somewhere forever?"

The article also provided details on how the partnership will work for BuzzFeed's journalists. "Under the partnership, 15 BuzzFeed writers will search Whisper for possible articles. When they identify potential material, Whisper will help them find more information with access to its internal search engines," it claimed.

"Whisper will also suggest ideas to BuzzFeed when it notices themes on its platform. The two organizations have already worked together informally and produced stories like 'Evil Things Roommates Do To Each Other' and '19 Brutally Honest Teacher Confessions'."

For BuzzFeed, the deal provides another source of content that it hopes will be shared vigorously on Facebook and other social networks. Whisper's rival, Secret, has been a fertile source of gossip-led stories for technology sites since its launch in January.

For Whisper, the BuzzFeed partnership is both opportunity and risk. It will let more people know that its app exists, and thus increase downloads and usage. The company has raised $54m of funding so far, but is facing competition from Secret – which recently raised $8.6m of its own – and other anonymous-sharing apps.

Risk? The knowledge that editors at one of the most popular news sites are mining the app for stories may put some Whisper users off sharing their thoughts, even if their identity will remain hidden in any articles featuring them. The tie-up could also attract more people prone to sharing outlandish lies, in the hope of making it onto BuzzFeed.

The deal may also fuel debate about whether shareability trumps accuracy in the social news arena. For example, neither Whisper nor BuzzFeed knows how many of those "brutally honest teacher confessions" were true, or even posted by real teachers. But with 1.1m page views of the resulting article, that uncertainty appears to have been trumped by sheer traffic.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Monday 24th March 2014 09.44 Europe/London

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