BuzzFeed Raises $50M, Expands Video Production

Revealing the grandest of ambitions, BuzzFeed just raised another $50 million -- at a reported valuation of $850 million -- which the publisher will use to rapidly expand operations from ad creation to original video production.


The Series E financing found comes courtesy of Andreessen Horowitz and Chris Dixon, the highly visible venture capital firm's general partner.

BuzzFeed is leading “a major technological shift in which … news and entertainment are being distributed on social networks and consumed on mobile devices,” Dixon explained in a Sunday afternoon blog post.

Derided by critics as appealing to the lowest common denominator with its “listicles,” themed questionnaires, and native ad formats, BuzzFeed has nonetheless established itself as a powerful force in online media and marketing.

“BuzzFeed started out focusing on lightweight content like memes, lists, [and] funny photos,” said Dixon, who is joining the company’s board. Yet “the company has since moved steadily up market, following the typical path of [other] disruptive technologies.”

With the fresh funding, BuzzFeed “plans to invest significantly more in high-quality content,” Dixon promised.

As part of that effort, BuzzFeed's editorial team will now operate under the banner “BuzzFeed News, Buzz, and Life,” while the publisher’s video efforts will henceforth be known as “BuzzFeed Motion Pictures.”

BuzzFeed's branded offerings for advertisers will be centralized into one group, BuzzFeed Creative, while the company is also launching a new distributed division to create content designed to live beyond its own Web site.

BuzzFeed Creative presently claims a team of 60 creatives, led by Melissa Rosenthal, and 40 branded video producers, led by Matt Baxter in LA. The plan is to continue expanding the group and develop new social-media-friendly ad products.

Much of its success can be attributed to the fact that BuzzFeed has successfully tapped into the social-media revolution better than most publishers and has become a master at reaching young consumers.

In particular, millennials -- who now find most of their content on customizable news feeds like those powered by Facebook and Twitter -- count BuzzFeed as one of their top 10 content-discovery resources, according to a recent study from SDL.

BuzzFeed’s popularity among young people has not been lost on agencies. WPP’s Mindshare recently formed a strategic partnership with BuzzFeed, which is designed to identify and activate real-time media and marketing opportunities for clients.

Per the deal, Mindshare is receiving detailed access to BuzzFeed Fre.sh data, which analyzes and ranks how its stories move across social media, while Mindshare has made a commitment to buy ads on BuzzFeed.

In May, meanwhile, DigitasLBi and BuzzFeed entered into “a skill-swap alliance,” as Tony Weisman, CEO of DigitasLBi North America, put it. Along with developing brand strategies, the BuzzFeed team has been expected to assist in real-time content creation for DigitasLBi’s clients.

Beyond Madison Avenue, Buzzfeed’s worth has caught the attention of top media executives. Indeed, Disney was reportedly interested in buying BuzzFeed, earlier this year. Yet, as Fortune reported at the time, the media giant baulked at Buzzfeed’s roughly $1 billion price tag.

Just last week, BuzzFeed tapped former Huffington Post head Greg Coleman as its new president. The hire followed the loss of Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed co-founder, former president and COO, who left in May to pursue other opportunities. (Last month, Steinberg joined The Daily Mail’s Web site, Mail Online, as its North American CEO.)

As part of the expansion, Kenneth Lerer, a co-founder of the company, will assume the role of Executive Chairman and advisor, in which position he will be expected to work closely with Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed co-founder and CEO, on company strategy.

The New York Times on Sunday suggested that Buzzfeed was now valued at about $850 million, citing a source.

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