Digital Journalism: Searching for Ways to Monetize an Audience

From a story, “BuzzFeed Shows Signs of a Rebound,” by Lucas L. Alpert in the Wall Street Journal:

BuzzFeed has worked to stabilize itself after a tumultuous period last year in which it laid off 250 people following an annual loss that people familiar with the matter said was greater than $50 million.

Now, the onetime digital-media darling is edging closer to profitability thanks to staff cuts and efforts in recent years to generate new revenue streams. . . . “the internet has really allowed for the creation of a new kind of media company that wasn’t entirely possible in the past.”

Other digital-media upstarts made deep cuts to staffing in the past year, and some, such as Vice Media, Vox Media and Group Nine Media Inc., have turned to mergers to help navigate the headwinds buffeting the industry.

BuzzFeed is pushing hard to find ways to better monetize its large audience. . . .The biggest growth has come from commerce, which now makes up 21% of the company’s overall revenue, up from just 9% two years earlier, the memo said. That has been driven by a big push into creating branded products for its own businesses and for others.

In addition to collecting affiliate fees for connecting readers with retailers, BuzzFeed now sells cookbooks, frying pans and hot plates with its Tasty food network branding at Walmart. It is also helping companies better target millennials: It recently worked with gardening giant Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. to create a service that ships a new house plant every month to subscribers. . . .

The company will aim to further expand its commerce business into new areas, Mr. Peretti said. Instead of focusing on retail products, he said BuzzFeed will now try to develop more of a lead-generation business, particularly in the travel and hospitality space.

The company also is seeking to create a membership model, with an eye on creating niche social communities for people with shared interests. . . .“We believe people might be willing to pay a little bit to something if it reduced the amount of spam, trolls and bad actors,” he said.

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