Video: On BuzzFeed’s ‘Solid Bounce-Back Year’ and Its Plans for the Future

CEO Jonah Peretti and CRO Lee Brown discuss the state of media

Video: Josh Rios/John Tejada; Editor: Nick Gardner

Adweek recently caught up with BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti and chief revenue officer Lee Brown about the state of the digital publisher, the challenges of a changing industry and where they see the company in the years ahead.

We also chatted with them about the evolution of Tasty in the three years it’s been live and the next chapter for the brand. You can hear and read more about Tasty in the Aug. 20 issue of Adweek magazine and here.

Hear more from Peretti in the video above and read Brown’s responses below.

The interviews have been edited for length and clarity:

Adweek: It’s a tough time in the media industry for publishers. How is BuzzFeed diversifying its revenue streams to stay competitive?
Lee Brown: We’re in probably perhaps the biggest transformation in our business’ history at BuzzFeed. During the last year, we have evolved from just a purely native advertising business to a full-service suite across native, programmatic, low-touch products, experiential and strategic consulting and product development. We’re really branching out to provide more ways to work with BuzzFeed and to access our audience in scale to marketers.

Can you talk more about the low touch products you’re offering?
BuzzCuts is a way for us to take an existing client asset that they have already made and slightly adapt it for our network, our social distribution. We’re not making it from scratch, but we’re actually doing a BuzzFeed take on a client asset and distributing it to our audience across our network in a way that is BuzzFeed native.

BuzzFeed recently reorganized the team working on branded content.
I’ve made some strategic investments in the business, especially this year, to really align the organization with this diversified product mix. I’ve made some good investments across the organization to bring in talent and to bring in resources against those new diversified products.

BuzzFeed held off on programmatic advertising but introduced it in October last year. How has it performed since it launched?
I’m really excited about programmatic. Jonah [Peretti] is one of the most user-focused people on the planet. We took our time in bringing programmatic to our product suite because we really wanted the tech and the quality of programmatic to be something that complements the user experience on BuzzFeed. When we launched it last year, we felt it was the right time, based on the advancements that have been made in programmatic to bring that offering to our marketing partners and I’ve been extremely excited about the uptick that we’ve had from the marketing community, the demand and interest that they’ve shown in that product, as well as the limited impact that it’s had on user experience on our site. It’s been a win-win for the organization as well as for the marketing partners.

What are you investing in to guarantee success in the short, long term?
Programmatic is a great opportunity for us. We just hired our first dedicated programmatic seller here on the East Coast. We have a verbal acceptance of our second one on the West Coast. We’re investing the resources against that opportunity. We’re also doubling down and investing in more video creatives and sellers as we ramp that part of our business. We think that’s an area of growth across multiple formats and platforms, so we’re excited about investing in that area.

And lastly, business development. That is a part of the organization that we’re really excited about building out the capabilities of that team. They can strengthen our deals with our platforms and [develop] more comprehensive partnerships with clients that work across all the things that we do—branded content, commerce, tech and media, and more.

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