The BuzzFeed business model: data, learning, dollars

Fast Company reports: Across all the platforms where it now publishes content, the company generates 5 billion monthly views—half from video, a business that effectively did not exist two years ago. Traffic to the website has remained steady — 80 million people in the U.S. every month, putting it ahead of The New York Times — even though as much as 75% of BuzzFeed’s content is now published somewhere else.

BuzzFeed has become the envy of the media world for its seemingly magical ability to engineer stories and ads that are shared widely — whether it’s a dress that looks to be either white and gold or blue and black, an investigation into taxpayer-funded “ghost schools” in Afghanistan, or an older cat imparting wisdom to a kitten on behalf of Purina. Rivals in the insular media world carp that BuzzFeed is gaming Facebook’s algorithm, or buying ads to pump up its content, and both are unsustainable; viral smashes like the dress are mere luck; even traditional brands such as The Washington Post can beat BuzzFeed with their own traffic-oriented gambits.

What’s lost here is a true understanding of what Peretti, one of the world’s most astute observers of Internet behavior, has built. The company’s success is rooted in a dynamic, learning-driven culture; BuzzFeed is a continuous feedback loop where all of its articles and videos are the input for its sophisticated data operation, which then informs how BuzzFeed creates and distributes the advertising it produces. In a diagram showing how the system works, Peretti synthesized it down to “data, learning, dollars.” [Continue reading…]

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