|Type of business||Private|
Type of site
|Founded||November 1, 2006|
|Headquarters||New York City, U.S.|
(co-founder and CEO)
John S. Johnson III
|Revenue||US$167 million (2015)|
|Employees||1,701 (December 2017)|
|Alexa rank||188 (February 2018)|
BuzzFeed, Inc. is an American Internet media and news company based in New York City. The firm is a news and entertainment company with a focus on digital media. BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 as a viral lab focusing on tracking viral content, by Jonah Peretti and John S. Johnson III. Kenneth Lerer, co-founder and chairman of The Huffington Post, started as a co-founder and investor in BuzzFeed and is now the executive chairman as well.
Originally known for online quizzes, "listicles", and pop culture articles, the company has grown into a global media and technology company providing coverage on a variety of topics including politics, DIY, animals and business. In late 2011, Ben Smith of Politico was hired as editor-in-chief to expand the site into serious journalism, long-form journalism, and reportage. After years of investment into investigative journalism, Buzzfeed News had by 2018 won the National Magazine Award and the George Polk Award, and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Michael Kelly Award.
Prior to establishing BuzzFeed, Peretti was director of research and development and the OpenLab at Eyebeam, Johnson's New York City-based art and technology nonprofit, where he experimented with other viral media.
While working at the Huffington Post, Peretti started BuzzFeed (originally called BuzzFeed Laboratories) as a side project, in 2006, in partnership with his former supervisor John Johnson. In the beginning, BuzzFeed employed no writers or editors, just an "algorithm to cull stories from around the web that were showing stirrings of virality." The site initially launched an instant messaging client, BuzzBot, which messaged users a link to popular content. The messages were sent based on algorithms which examined the links that were being quickly disseminated, scouring through the feeds of hundreds of blogs that were aggregating them. Later, the site began spotlighting the most popular links that BuzzBot found. Peretti hired curators to help describe the content that was popular around the web. In 2011, Peretti hired Politico's Ben Smith, who earlier had achieved much attention as a political blogger, to assemble a news operation in addition to the many aggregated "listicles".
In 2016, BuzzFeed formally separated its news and entertainment content into BuzzFeed News and the newly formed BuzzFeed Entertainment Group, which also includes BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. As of 2016, BuzzFeed had correspondents from 12 countries, and foreign editions in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom, By the end of 2017, BuzzFeed employed around 1,700 employees worldwide, although it announced plans in November to lay off around 100 employees in the U.S. and 45 in the U.K; and 100 in France in June 2018.
In August 2014, BuzzFeed raised $50 million from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, more than doubling previous rounds of funding. The site was reportedly valued at around $850 million by Andreessen Horowitz. BuzzFeed generates its advertising revenue through native advertising that matches its own editorial content, and does not rely on banner ads. BuzzFeed also uses its familiarity with social media to target conventional advertising through other channels, such as Facebook.
In August 2015, NBCUniversal made a $200 million equity investment in BuzzFeed. Along with plans to hire more journalists to build a more prominent "investigative" unit, BuzzFeed is hiring journalists around the world and plans to open outposts in India, Germany, Mexico, and Japan.
On October 28, 2014, BuzzFeed announced its next acquisition, taking hold of Torando Labs. The Torando team was to become BuzzFeed's first data engineering team.
BuzzFeed produces daily content, in which the work of staff reporters, contributors, syndicated cartoon artists, and its community are featured. Popular formats on the website include lists, videos, and quizzes. The style of such content inspired the parody website ClickHole. While BuzzFeed initially was focused exclusively on such viral content, according to The New York Times, "it added more traditional content, building a track record for delivering breaking news and deeply reported articles" in the years up to 2014. In that year, BuzzFeed deleted over 4000 early posts, "apparently because, as time passed, they looked stupider and stupider", as observed by The New Yorker.
BuzzFeed's news division began in December 2011 with the appointment of Ben Smith as editor-in-chief. In 2013, Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Schoofs of ProPublica was hired as head of investigative reporting. By 2016, Buzzfeed had 20 investigative journalists. The British division of BuzzFeed News is headed by Janine Gibson, formerly of The Guardian. Notable coverage includes a 2012 partnership with the BBC on match-fixing in professional tennis, and inequities in the U.S. H-2 guest worker program, reporting of which won a National Magazine Award.
A 2017 study in the journal Journalism which compared news articles by BuzzFeed and The New York Times found that BuzzFeed largely follows established rules of journalism. Both publications predominantly used inverted pyramid news format, and journalists' opinions were absent from the majority of articles of both. Both BuzzFeed and the Times predominately covered government and politics, and predominantly used politicians, government, and law enforcement as sources. In contrast, BuzzFeed devoted more articles to social issues such as protests and LGBT issues, more frequently quoted ordinary people, less frequently covered crime and terrorism, and had fewer articles focusing on negative aspects of an issue.
BuzzFeed Video, BuzzFeed Motion Picture's flagship channel, produces original content. Its production studio and team are based in Los Angeles. Since hiring Ze Frank in 2012, BuzzFeed Video has produced several video series including "The Try Guys". In August 2014, the company announced a new division, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which may produce feature-length films. As of June 27, 2017, BuzzFeed Video's YouTube had garnered more than 10.2 billion views and more than 12.6 million subscribers. It recently was announced that YouTube has signed on for two feature length series to be created by BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, entitled Broke and Squad Wars.
On July 17, 2012, humor website McSweeney's Internet Tendency published a satirical piece entitled "Suggested BuzzFeed Articles", prompting BuzzFeed to create many of the suggestions. BuzzFeed listed McSweeney's as a "Community Contributor." The post subsequently received more than 350,000 page views, prompted BuzzFeed to ask for user submissions, and received media attention. Subsequently, the website launched the "Community" section in May 2013 to enable users to submit content. Users initially are limited to publishing only one post per day, but may increase their submission capacity by raising their "Cat Power", described on the BuzzFeed website as "an official measure of your rank in BuzzFeed's Community." A user's Cat Power increases as they achieve greater prominence on the site.
BuzzFeed receives the majority of its traffic by creating content that is shared on social media websites. BuzzFeed works by judging their content on how viral it will become. Operating in a "continuous feedback loop" where all of its articles and videos are used as input for its sophisticated data operation. The site continues to test and track their custom content with an in-house team of data scientists and external-facing "social dashboard." Using an algorithm dubbed "Viral Rank" created by Jonah Peretti and Duncan Watts, the company uses this formula to let editors, users, and advertisers try lots of different ideas, which maximizes distribution. Staff writers are ranked by views on an internal leaderboard. In 2014, BuzzFeed received 75% of its views from links on social media outlets such as Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.
BuzzFeed's video series on comfort food, Tasty, is made for Facebook, where it has ninety million followers as of November 2017[update]. The channel has substantially more views than BuzzFeed's dedicated food site. The channel included five spinoff segments: "Tasty Junior"—which eventually spun off into its own page, "Tasty Happy Hour" (alcoholic beverages), "Tasty Fresh", "Tasty Vegetarian", and "Tasty Story"—which has celebrities making and discussing their own recipes. Tasty has also released a cookbook. The company also operates these international versions of Tasty in other languages. Tasty has also released its own kitchenware, which includes several products such as spatulas, cooking sheets, and mixing bowls. These products are sold in collaboration with Walmart.Tasty also sells their "One Top", which is a smart induction cooktop, as well as "Tasty Kits", which are kits that contain cooking items for cooking at home.
Since 2016, Tasty also sponsors a show named Worth It starring Steven Lim, Andrew Ilnyckyj, and Adam Bianchi. In each episode, the trio visit three different food places with three drastically different price points in one food category. Steven Lim also stars in BuzzFeed Blue's "Worth It – Lifestyle" videos. The series is similar, in that three items or experiences are valued from different companies, each at their different price point, but focus on material items and experiences, such as plane seats, hotel rooms, and haircuts.
BuzzFeed Unsolved is the most successful web series on BuzzFeed's BuzzFeedBlue, created by Ryan Bergara. The show features Bergara and Shane Madej (who replaced original co-host Brent Bennett). The show covers some of history's most famous unsolved mysteries, presenting them and the theories that surround them in a comedic manner. In some episodes, they even visit the places involved with the mystery, often ghost hunting during Supernatural episodes.
The Try Guys
The Try Guys are a quartet of friends (Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer, Keith Habersberger, and Zach Kornfeld) who put themselves in different, and at times, compromising situations and record the results. In June 2018, they created their own independent channel, also titled "The Try Guys".
Night In / Night Out
Night In/Night Out is a channel run by Ned and Ariel Fulmer. This show features the couple on two different dates, one at home featuring a homemade meal (using a Buzzfeed Tasty Recipe) and one at a restaurant in the Los Angeles area. Each episode focuses on one particular meal, such as baked salmon or hamburgers. At the end of each episode, Ned and Ariel decide whether they preferred the home-cooked meal (and the accompanying ambience and price tag) or the meal at the restaurant.
On January 10, 2017, CNN reported on the existence of classified documents that claimed Russia had compromising personal and financial information about President-elect Donald Trump. Both Trump and President Barack Obama had been briefed on the content of the dossier the previous week. CNN did not publish the dossier, or any specific details of the dossier, as they could not be verified. Later the same day, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier nearly in-full. BuzzFeed said that the dossier was unverified and "includes some clear errors". The dossier had been read widely by political and media figures in Washington, and previously been sent to multiple journalists who had declined to publish it as unsubstantiated. In response the next day, Trump called the website a "failing pile of garbage" during a news conference. The publication of the dossier was also met with criticism from, among others, CNN reporter Jake Tapper, who called it irresponsible. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith defended the site's decision to publish the dossier.
BuzzFeed faces at least two lawsuits as a result of publishing the dossier. In February 2017, Aleksej Gubarev, the Russian chief of the technology company XBT, and a figure named in the dossier sued BuzzFeed for defamation. The suit centers on the allegations from the dossier that XBT had been "using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct 'altering operations' against the Democratic Party leadership." In response, BuzzFeed redacted the name of the company and official in its published dossier. In May 2017 Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan – the owners of Alfa Bank – filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing the unverified dossier, which alleges financial ties and collusion between Putin, Trump, and the three bank owners. In January 2018, one year after the dossier became public, Trump's lawyer Michael D. Cohen, who is also named in the dossier, filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed. The same day, Ben Smith again defended the publication in a New York Times op-ed, calling it "undoubtedly real news." In February 2018, BuzzFeed sued the Democratic National Committee to obtain their internal investigation documents regarding the hack of their server during the presidential campaign in order for the journal to better defend itself against Gubarev's lawsuit. In April 2018, Cohen dropped his defamation suit.
On April 8, 2016, two BuzzFeed interns created a live stream on Facebook, during which rubber bands were wrapped one by one around a watermelon until the pressure caused it to explode. The Daily Dot compared it to something from America's Funniest Home Videos or by the comedian Gallagher, and "just as stupid-funny, but with incredible immediacy and zero production costs". The video is seen as part of Facebook's strategy to shift to live video, Facebook Live, to counter the rise of Snapchat and Periscope among a younger audience.
In February 2015, a post resulting in a debate over the color of an item of clothing from BuzzFeed's Tumblr editor Cates Holderness garnered more than 28 million views in one day, setting a record for most concurrent visitors to a BuzzFeed post. Holderness had shown the picture to other members of the site's social media team, who immediately began arguing about the dress colors among themselves. After creating a simple poll for users of the site, she left work and took the subway back to her Brooklyn home. When she got off the train and checked her telephone, it was overwhelmed by the messages on various sites. "I couldn't open Twitter because it kept crashing. I thought somebody had died, maybe. I didn't know what was going on." Later in the evening the page set a new record at BuzzFeed for concurrent visitors, which would reach 673,000 at its peak.
Leaked Milo Yiannopoulos emails
An exposé by BuzzFeed published in October 2017 documented how Breitbart News solicited story ideas and copy edits from white supremacists and neo-Nazis, with Milo Yiannopoulos acting as an intermediary. Yiannopoulos and other Breitbart employees developed and marketed the values and tactics of these groups, attempting to make them palatable to a broader audience. In the article, BuzzFeed senior technology reporter Joseph Bernstein wrote that Breitbart actively fed from the "most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right" and helped to normalize the American far right.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes called the 8,500-word article "one of the best reported pieces of the year." The Columbia Journalism Review described the story as a scrupulous, months-long project and "the culmination of years of reporting and source-building on a beat that few thought much about until Donald Trump won the presidential election."
Kevin Spacey sexual misconduct accusation
On October 29, 2017, BuzzFeed published the original story in which actor Anthony Rapp accused actor Kevin Spacey of making sexual advances toward him at a party in 1986 when Rapp was 14 at the time and Spacey was 26. Subsequently, numerous other men alleged that Spacey had sexually harassed or assaulted them, As a result, Netflix indefinitely suspended production of Spacey's TV series House of Cards, and opted to not release his film Gore on their service, which was in post-production at the time, and Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott's film All the Money in the World, which was six weeks from release.
Awards and recognition
BuzzFeed News received a 2016 National Magazine Award in the category of Public Interest. Other awards won by BuzzFeed journalists include a 2014 National Press Foundation award, 2015 Sidney Award, and 2017 British Journalism Award. In 2017, BuzzFeed also won Webby Awards for Best News App and Best Interview/Talk Show (for Another Round), president Greg Coleman was named Publishing Executive of the Year by Digiday, and journalist Chris Hamby was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. BuzzFeed is a member of the White House press corps.
Criticism and controversies
BuzzFeed has been accused of plagiarizing original content from competitors throughout the online and offline press. In June 2012, Gawker's Adrian Chen observed that one of BuzzFeed's most popular writers—Matt Stopera—frequently had copied and pasted "chunks of text into lists without attribution." In March 2013, The Atlantic Wire also reported several "listicles" had apparently been copied from Reddit and other websites. In July 2014, BuzzFeed writer Benny Johnson was accused of multiple instances of plagiarism. Two anonymous Twitter users chronicled Johnson attributing work that was not his own, but "directly lift[ed] from other reporters, Wikipedia, and Yahoo! Answers", all without credit. BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith initially defended Johnson, calling him a "deeply original writer". Days later, Smith acknowledged that Johnson had plagiarized the work of others 40 times and announced that Johnson had been fired, and apologized to BuzzFeed readers. "Plagiarism, much less copying unchecked facts from Wikipedia or other sources, is an act of disrespect to the reader", Smith said. "We are deeply embarrassed and sorry to have misled you." In total, 41 instances of plagiarism were found and corrected. In 2016, claims surfaced of the YouTube channel BuzzFeedVideo stealing ideas and content from other creators. Among the accusers are YouTube users Akilah Obviously, Cr1TiKaL(penguinz0) and JaclynGlenn.
BuzzFeed has been the subject of multiple copyright infringement lawsuits, for both using content it had no rights to and encouraging its proliferation without attributing its sources: one for an individual photographer's photograph, and another for nine celebrity photographs from a single photography company.
Accuracy and reliability
In October 2014, a Pew Research Center survey found that in the United States, BuzzFeed was viewed as an unreliable source by the majority of people, regardless of political affiliation. Adweek noted that most respondents had not heard of BuzzFeed, and many users do not consider BuzzFeed a news site. In a subsequent Pew report based on 2014 surveys, BuzzFeed was among the least trusted sources by millennials. A 2016 study by the Columbia Journalism Review found readers less likely to trust a story (originally published in Mother Jones) that appeared to originate on BuzzFeed than the same article on The New Yorker website.
In 2013, Buzzfeed named "My Lips are for Blowing" as one of "21 Awkwardly Sexual Albums"; the Museum of Hoaxes subsequently reported there was no such album and that the image of the album used in the Buzzfeed article had been lifted from a 2010 fictitious album cover design created by a blogger going by the name Estancia de la Ding Dong.
Advertiser influence on editorial
In April 2015, BuzzFeed drew scrutiny after Gawker observed the publication had deleted two posts that criticized advertisers. One of the posts criticized Dove soap (manufactured by Unilever), while another criticized Hasbro. Both companies advertise with BuzzFeed. Ben Smith apologized in a memo to staff for his actions. "I blew it", Smith wrote. "Twice in the past couple of months, I've asked editors—over their better judgment and without any respect to our standards or process—to delete recently published posts from the site. Both involved the same thing: my overreaction to questions we've been wrestling with about the place of personal opinion pieces on our site. I reacted impulsively when I saw the posts and I was wrong to do that. We've reinstated both with a brief note." Days later, one of the authors of the deleted posts, Arabelle Sicardi, resigned. An internal review by the company found three additional posts deleted for being critical of products or advertisements (by Microsoft, Pepsi, and Unilever).
In 2016, the Advertising Standards Authority of the United Kingdom ruled that BuzzFeed broke the UK advertising rules for failing to make it clear that an article on "14 Laundry Fails We've All Experienced" that promoted Dylon was an online advertorial paid for by the brand. Although the ASA agreed with BuzzFeed's defence that links to the piece from its homepage and search results clearly labelled the article as "sponsored content", this failed to take into account that many people may link to the story directly, ruling that the labelling "was not sufficient to make clear that the main content of the web page was an advertorial and that editorial content was therefore retained by the advertiser".
Racist hiring practices
In February 2016, Scaachi Koul, a Senior Writer for BuzzFeed Canada, tweeted a request for pitches stating that BuzzFeed was "...looking for mostly non-white non-men" followed by "If you are a white man upset that we are looking mostly for non-white non-men I don't care about you go write for Maclean's." When confronted, she followed with the tweet "White men are still permitted to pitch, I will read it, I will consider it. I'm just less interested because, ugh, men." In response to the tweets, Koul received numerous rape and death threats and racist insults. Sarmishta Subramanian, a former colleague of Koul's, writing for Maclean's, condemned the reaction to the tweets, and commented that Koul's request for diversity was appropriate. Subramanian said that her provocative approach raised concerns of tokenism that might hamper BuzzFeed's stated goals.
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