BuzzFeed News Is Trying New Methods to Generate Revenue

BuzzFeed News plans to debut a feature at the bottom of its news pages asking readers to donate between $5 and $100. In exchange, said one source, donors will get updates on big news stories and new programming. This move could presage a membership program with more perks, continued that source, who added that the company is not planning to charge for content. In another revenue-earning venture, BuzzFeed introduced a new product-review/recommendation site, earning revenue from online purchases.

The Wall Street Journal reports that BuzzFeed News has introduced other ways to increase revenue, including programmatic ads, production deals with Netflix and Twitter, and licensing merchandise of brands like its Tasty food vertical.

“Following some of our peers in the industry, we see this as one more way to support our reporting and keep BuzzFeed News free for everyone,” said company spokesperson Matt Mittenthal. The U.K.-based Guardian has raised $130 million from reader revenues from April 2016 to March 2017. BuzzFeed executives also learned from Google News Initiative research that, “a portion of the company’s readers were likely to support its journalism.”

BuzzFeed is looking for revenue growth in light of last year’s targeted $350 million in revenue, which missed the mark by 15 percent to 20 percent. WSJ reported, however that “its pace of growth far outstrips traditional media outlets.” But, as Google, Facebook and Amazon “siphon an ever-larger share of digital advertising dollars, news organizations are increasingly leaning on reader revenue to power growth.”

Elsewhere, WSJ reports that the media outlet launched BuzzFeedReviews, although the company did not formally announce the new site that “publishes reviews of multiple products in the same category at various price points to give consumers a variety of choices.” Product categories are broad, “from smart speakers to electric toothbrushes to bath towels.” In what’s known as an affiliate model, which provides links to purchase products from various retailers, BuzzFeed “says it may collect revenue.”

The New York Times owns a similar product recommendation site, Wirecutter, “which it has credited as a source of growth,” that also uses an affiliate model, and Hearst “recently bought a stake in e-commerce company Gear Patrol to boost its e-commerce business.” With regard to product review sites, Fusion Media Group owns The Inventory.