BuzzFeed’s New Revenue Chief Says There Are 3 Reasons People Share Its Videos

Lee Brown on measuring and monetizing the video boom


Who Lee Brown

Current gig Chief revenue officer, BuzzFeed

Previous gig Global head of brand partnerships, Tumblr

Age 42

BuzzFeed reportedly made over $100 million in revenue in 2014. How will you sustain that? 

Video is a significant opportunity. We have a dedicated team from the sales and operations sides that are producing five-and-a-half times more releases than last year, and we've grown our investment into the teams 340 percent. International is another one. As we open up and grow with our editorial departments, the opportunity for us to come in and monetize the traffic and the audience is something we are going to be focused on. Lastly would be research. We've doubled the size of our research team here to help us quantify the impact that our opportunities have had.

What can advertisers expect from your NewFront?

BuzzFeed Motion Pictures is paving the way for how we view distribution and storytelling. In March, we hit 1 billion monthly video views across our distribution partners. We're thinking about how that model can impact and shape everything from how we think about editorial to advertising.

What types of videos work best for branded content?

We categorize why people share video in three major buckets. One, identity ("This is so me!"); two, emotional gift ("This made me LOL and I want to share it"); and three, information. We think about each division as an R&D lab. We're taking what our video producers are seeing as they gather data from the 50-plus videos they're making each week. We then apply those learnings for brands to create compelling, shareable videos.

On your Tumblr profile, it says you're a closet gamer.

I've played games all my life, everything from the first Atari games to Zelda. Now I've got an 11-, 8- and 5-year-old. I'm playing what they're playing, everything from Clash of Clans to Heyday to Bloons TD 5. We get competitive. You've got to learn that lesson early. We don't all get trophies.

Are you trying to break out of the "BuzzFeed is for millennials" mold?

I think there is something for everyone here. Not only the core that we've continued to attract time and time again, but as we broaden our investigative journalism and our coverage into news, the reasons why people are coming are changing.

There's been controversy about BuzzFeed deleting editorial posts because of advertiser conflict.

It's not my place to speak for editorial, but as I'm sure you know, they have their own standards guide that was published in January of this year, and it clearly outlines the separation between advertising and editorial. [Editor in chief] Ben Smith and his team have been very transparent in how those guidelines came together.

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