After raising nearly $20m in funding, the social news website is set to launch in the UK in direct competition with the Mail Online.
BuzzFeed bills itself as the “first true social news organisation”, publishing everything from slapstick images of cats to in-depth analysis of the US economy – and now the list-mad site is set to expand into the UK. Here are 11 things you need to know about it:
1. What is BuzzFeed?
BuzzFeed is the irreverent US news and entertainment website taking the social web by storm. The site is said to be one of the fastest-growing on the internet, with more than 40 million people a month viewing viral hits such as “50 puppies to help you get through work today” and “The most WTF animal moments“.
2. Why is everyone talking about it now?
The site has just raised $19.3m in a fourth round of funding, valuing the six-year-old company at about $200m, and announced plans for international expansion. BuzzFeed has had the internet abuzz for a couple of years, but looks set for further growth in 2013.
3. What’s the secret of its success?
One high-profile investor, the Buddy Media co-founder Kazz Lazerow, hailed BuzzFeed as building “the defining media company for the social age”. Its cocktail of humorous lists, celebrity gossip, picture stories and breaking news has captured a booming demand for material to share with friends.
4. What’s with all the animal pictures?
Cute pictures of puppies, cats dressed like Kanye West and goats behaving like chicken make up a sizeable portion of BuzzFeed’s menu. But it recently made a move towards in-depth reporting of US politics and economics, extending its appeal to a broader range of readers.
5. Does it make any money?
BuzzFeed has raised almost $50m in venture capital funding since its launch in 2006, including the latest $19.3m round. It has $15.5m sitting in the bank from a previous funding round. The company is tight-lipped about its turnover, with revenues reported to be $20m last year, but a spokeswoman said it had a number of profitable months in 2012, no doubt helped by its paid-for advertorials.
6. Advertorials? Isn’t that a bit controversial?
While traditional media has largely turned its nose up at advertorial content, BuzzFeed has made it the cornerstone of its business model. Coca-Cola, MTV and Nike all have sponsored posts on the site, which features no banner advertising. Forrester analyst James McQuivey says BuzzFeed has captured a “cultural willingness” to change the relationship between advertising and content in the US.
7. Who started BuzzFeed?
Jonah Peretti is the founder and chief executive. The 38-year-old helped Arianna Huffington launch the Huffington Post in 2005. BuzzFeed now has almost twice as many monthly visitors as Huffington’s site had when it was bought for $315m by AOL in 2011.
8. Who are its competitors?
With 70 reporters and editors out of 180 staff in the US, BuzzFeed is formidable competition for any digital rival. But also grappling for internet users’ attention is the hugely popular Daily Mail website, Mail Online, which has ploughed significant resources into expanding overseas.
9. And now it plans to launch in the UK
BuzzFeed will station its tanks on the lawn of Mail Online when it opens its London office later this year. The site has hired the former NME.com editor, Luke Lewis, to join its UK operation.
10. How will BuzzFeed adapt to Britain?
BuzzFeed will be nimble in its approach to international expansion, says Forrester’s McQuivey. He adds: “There’s a whole different advertising game in the UK and it would be foolish to ignore the culture differences [of readers and advertisers]. But digitally they’re in a strong position because there are no constraints.”
11. Is this the future of journalism?
Like many an aggregator site, BuzzFeed is accused of using other people’s content. But its mix of the serious and stupid poses a fresh challenge for traditional media companies as they battle for web users’ time and attention. Its flexible approach to advertising – shunning the tired model of banner ads in favour of sponsored content – makes it a trailblazer in the rise of the social web. “You’ll hear all sorts of protestations from the UK media about how inapproppriate its advertorials are,” says McQuivey. “But it will only take a couple of large advertisers to test the waters and that’s a skill [traditional media companies] are going to want to have.”