BuzzFeed has devoted a great deal of time and energy into expanding beyond its simple staples of sharable “listacles” and quizzes. In August, BuzzFeed raised $50 million from Andreessen Horowitz and has used that money to fund a games team, a data engineering team, as well as making their former data chief their publisher. Most recently, BuzzFeed has become a media partner with Tencent on their messaging app WeChat.
According to an interview with TechCrunch, BuzzFeed VP of International Scott Lamb says the moves are about predicting the future of media. “As a media company, we have to be very sensitive to the changes in how people are consuming content online. There are so many people using messaging apps—our theory is that large numbers of people will use them to communicate and share media in the future.” Lamb added, “To get involved early and figure out how users share these things is really important for the future of BuzzFeed.”
With the emergence of messaging apps, large tech companies are gobbling up any successful apps with the hopes of acquiring more users. Facebook made a landmark purchase in February when it purchased the messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion. Facebook also attempted to purchase popular picture messaging app Snapchat for $3 billion but their offer was declined. It is likely that Facebook and others are making these purchases for the same reason as BuzzFeed: to stay on top of digital media so they can stay slightly ahead of popularity.
According to TechCrunch, a BuzzFeed representative said that traffic from ‘dark social’ sources, basically sources with no known destination, are on the rise. It is predicted that this increase could be attributed to links coming from messaging apps, though it could also be coming from emails or other sources.
So what does BuzzFeed get from this? It currently remains to be seen. It is unclear how many WeChat users are active in the United States, though WeChat does have a presence in China. While BuzzFeed is currently mostly concentrated in North America, a presence in Asian markets could benefit the company’s long-term health.
What do you think about BuzzFeed’s involvement with WeChat? Do you use messaging apps?