The fact that your friends and relatives across the world likely know all the same viral videos
as you is no longer a novelty. Many of us are very accustomed to the idea that the internet is
global, though sometimes we take that concept for granted. BuzzFeed is a brand that most
are familiar with, globally. So what brings BuzzFeed clicks with a more connected generation
To break this down, one needs to know that the crux of understanding BuzzFeed comes
from its identity crisis of having a creative focus versus having a business focus. As a
content producer the company focuses on having enough money to create original
programming, but as a content distributor, the company has to focus on making enough
content to make money. This is the difference between financing to make stuff or making
stuff in order to finance. And these are two very different goals which frequently come into
Audience or Target Demographic?
People watch, read, listen and interact with BuzzFeed content all across the world whether
here in Canada, in India or Denmark. In that regard, BuzzFeed must act as a content
producer to know which cultures interact and how, in order to create content that resonates
with global audiences. To pull from the past, when Broadcast Television was becoming
increasingly global in the late 2010s, Dr. Chalaby of City University, London (UK), described
interacting cultures as becoming "[...] increasingly like dialects of a universal language"
(Chalaby, 2009) which, I believe, similarly applies to global audiences on the web.
Conversations about social practices around the world are exchanged every day, whether
it's understanding the nuances of sexuality or how to pronounce the word ".gif". In that way,
BuzzFeed must adjust their strategy as to appeal to Audience.
However, as many social and sharing platforms dictate their algorithms give preference to
accounts that post regularly and frequently (largely Facebook and YouTube), BuzzFeed must
be constantly pushing out content. And in order to sustainably do that, BuzzFeed needs
funds, and advertisers--and a lot at that. So where does this interaction of culture stop
becoming the audience and start becoming buyers? BuzzFeed has approximately 83 million
visitors per month (Newstex, 2016) providing enough value to raise 400 million in the last 2
years simply from investments from ComCast (Newstex, 2016). In this way, Buzzfeed must
adjust their strategy to appeal to Advertisers.
Content or Ad Platform?
Having broken down who the content is being made for, let's break down the actual content
that BuzzFeed produces. BuzzFeed is notorious for using concepts like "native advertising",
a term that means ads that don't really feel like ads, meaning they're producing some
content and some advertising. Not only this, but Hughes, renowned Producer and Writer,
accuses BuzzFeed of "repeatedly stealing ideas, jokes, bits, gags, and therefore money from
prominent YouTube creators." (Hughes, 2016). These claims are made with significant
evidence, though there is little policy which even gives rights to online content. This begs to
question whether BuzzFeed has the intention of making content or simply making
advertisements appear as they are valuable content.
BuzzFeed is primarily a business and it creates content as a business. This needs to be
understood in order to grasp the large span of influence it has as a platform and as a
company. As an international content producer and distributor, the company makes broad
stroke observational content in order to account for all cultures, as well as niche, but shared
experiences in order to have widespread appeal. It will be up to consumers to decide
whether this is the content they'd like to see in the future, as currently, it is pulling enough
viewership to remain a big player in the industry. It will also be important for international law
makers to adjust policy to account for the rights of online creators as much as it does for
traditional media professionals.
Benzinga: NBCUniversal close to investing $200 million in BuzzFeed (2016). Chatham:
Newstex. Retrieved from
Chalaby, J. K. (2009). Broadcasting in a post-national environment: the rise of transnational TV
groups. Critical Studies in Television, 4(1), 39+. Retrieved from
Hughes, Akilah (2016). Dear advertisers: It's time to stop supporting BuzzFeed Video. Medium.
24/7 wall st.: BuzzFeed audience hits 83 million (2016). . Chatham: Newstex. Retrieved from