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Diversification: The New Opportunity in New Media

James Lamon, Head of Content,Buzzfeed UK
James Lamon, Head of Content,Buzzfeed UK

James Lamon, Head of Content,Buzzfeed UK

For the last six years we’ve witnessed the evolution of media in the age of social. To summarize a complicated era—Social media algorithms prioritized engagement. Publishers who recognized this invested in creating engaging social-first content—basically, a gold rush to build social followings. These publishers saw major increases in reach and audience size. And thus today we have new media companies, influencers, and brands with huge followings built on and by social. The world in 2019 is very different. Governments are threatening to regulate Facebook. Vine is dead. YouTube is not entirely brand safe. Snapchat grew up. And TikTok has become the new kid on the block.

Meanwhile, social media companies have manicured their platforms to curtail the reach of publishers, and while engagement still brings growth, things aren't like they used to be. The gold rush is over. For many publishers, this has been devastating. For BuzzFeed, it has meant diversification across product and revenue.

regardless of platform changes or political upheavals;people online still crave interesting, informative, and fun content. NewsWhip’s Q2 Facebook Publishing report reveals that aggregate engagement on English-language web content is double what we saw in 2018 for some weeks. Meanwhile, online video continues to grow with total views now [NUMBER], a  percent growth over 2018.

 The future of media lies in operational efficiency and not what we conventionally call disruption 

With the evolution of social media, so too evolves the business of content. For some time, the industry believed social platforms (namely Facebook and Google) would pay and pay well for quality content on their platforms in a model similar to television. This has not materialized, forcing new media companies to diversify. Today, significanprogrammatic advertising on our website and apps, including custom banners we call BuzzCuts that greatly outperform traditional banner ads, joins this revenue stream. We’ve also built a significant affiliate advertising business by launching shopping verticals focused on finding the best products at the best prices for our audiences.

For me, personally, the most exciting business opportunity in media today is to convert the immense volume of engagement and attention on social media into IRL products and experiences. To this end, BuzzFeed has begun launching products of our own. We built a candle company based on the insight that you could target users on Facebook who had updated their “home” from one location to the next. We created candles that smelled like each of the 50 states and targeted people on Facebook with a candle from their home state as a reminder of home. We sold hundreds of thousands of candles and became one of the world’s largest candle companies before selling the business in 2018. It was wild.

Today, we bring this same level of social insight to brand partners as we work to co-create content, products, and experiences.. It’s part of a larger business mission to be a solutions partner.

Prophesying the future of media is a dangerous game. But for me, the future of media lies in operational efficiency and not what we conventionally call disruption. We have a vision of “disruptive” technology that upends the status quo. In actuality, the disruption occurs when a more efficient business enters the space — a company that can more effectively spend every dollar. BuzzFeed is on the path to producing content at scale to delight our massive and global audience. But what’s vital is to build our business not for this audience but with this audience — by answering their greatest needs, dreams, and desires — through content, products, and more. The future belongs to those companies who build the product that lives in the sweet spot between your content, your technology, and your audience.

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