Just under a year after announcing its last big funding round, the ever-expanding BuzzFeed said Thursday morning that it has raised a $19.3 million round of Series D financing, led by the New Enterprise Associates venture capital firm.
The site, which began its transformation from aggregation to a full-fledged social news organization of nearly 200 employees in 2012 with the addition of political reporter Ben Smith as editor in chief, dominated the conversation in digital publishing in 2012 in part due to its unique brand of editorial and native advertising content driven by social discovery and sharing. Last year BuzzFeed added 10 different content verticals ranging from politics to food, while attracting new investors like Michael and Kass Lazerow, co-founders of Buddy Media who have added to this new financing round. Previous investors RRE, Hearst, SoftBank and Lerer Ventures also contributed.
While BuzzFeed isn't revealing specific plans for the new influx of cash, the company did indicate it will focus on mobile and video initatives, as well as grow its team in size and geographic scope, an exercise that has become so common at the social news organization that there's even a Tumblr site poking fun at its high frequency of new hires. With the new round, BuzzFeed will have raised roughly $46 million in venture funding to date, according to previous estimates from CrunchBase.
If BuzzFeed's Series C last year was about turning a fledgling online operation into a news organization, this year's round appears to be about helping the site graduate to the elite club of more established media organizations as a top player well beyond 2013. Patrick Kearns, who helped lead the round for NEA, echoed this support. "We think BuzzFeed will be one of the great media companies of the next decade,” he said.
While BuzzFeed's first year as a true news organization has been met with mostly open arms and pageview success (the site is reporting 40 million unique visitors in December 2012, according to Google Analytics), the new cash will put even more pressure on the company to build credibility. Throughout its coverage of the recent 2012 election season and across verticals like technology and sports, BuzzFeed has broken news and become an important outlet for Web savvy news junkies.
Yet the site, which has its roots in more frivolous viral Web content, will have to continue to prove itself among those who embrace a more traditional approach to news. As recently as yesterday, media critics have questioned BuzzFeed's mix of long-form and deeply reported content and tabloid material, which coexist on the site.