Commentary

Verizon's Technology Will Change BuzzFeed's Ad Products

Verizon Media's sale of HuffPost to BuzzFeed is not a complete spinoff that puts the companies on separate trajectories.

Instead, the two are more closely aligned in ways that promise to give the digital publishers a broader range of advertising products to sell.

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Verizon Media will own a minority interest in BuzzFeed, aligning their interests in growing revenue and boosting valuations. In announcing the deal, the companies said they will create "an innovation group to explore monetization opportunities."

There are signs of which direction those explorations could take, especially as Verizon Media's parent company, Verizon Communications, ramps up its marketing for higher-speed 5G cellular service.

To show off the new service, Verizon and social-media company Snap last week created an augmented-reality musical performance in New York that could only be viewed by Verizon customers with a 5G smartphone.

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By opening Snap's Snapchat photo-messaging app and pointing their smartphone cameras at the main branch of the New York Public Library, Verizon customers could watch a giant digital avatar of Black Pumas lead singer Eric Burton dance and sing.

Verizon is looking for digital content that gives people a reason to sign up for 5G service. Those efforts also include its deal with the National Football League to create a series of digital experiences aimed at fans who can't attend live games during the pandemic.

These experiences hint at some of the possibilities for digital publishers, like BuzzFeed and HuffPost, to create immersive content that is too data-intensive to quickly distribute on most smartphones today.

It's conceivable that BuzzFeed could create similar digital content and find sponsors that want to engage consumers with a branded experience.

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