Over 150 million people visit BuzzFeed every month to scroll through lists, complete quizzes, write comments, and, increasingly, to read thoughtful, zeitgeisty, and well-reported journalism. But where does the web's premier viral content factory—and one that has fundamentally changed the tone of the web, to say nothing of the dozens of copycats it has spawned—go from here?
On Sunday night, it was announced BuzzFeed had secured a $50 million investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, boosting the value of the company to about $850 million, according to the New York Times. "We think of BuzzFeed as more of a technology company," Chris Dixon, a general partner at Andreesen Horowitz, told the Times. "They embrace Internet culture. Everything is first optimized for mobile and social channels."
Betting big on a media company is a bold move in today's cutthroat publishing climate, but the investment does offer some hints as to what BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti has planned for the near future. Buried down in the Times's report is this interesting nugget about one way BuzzFeed is looking to expand:
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which is led by Ze Frank, a web video pioneer, aims to produce new videos—from six-second clips made for social media to more traditional 22-minute shows—at a rapid-fire pace. Initially, his team will focus on independent distribution, hosting video content on BuzzFeed.com, YouTube or other digital platforms. But BuzzFeed Motion Pictures could also look to produce feature-length films or shows, working in conjunction with traditional Hollywood studios.
Take Vice, another hotshot new media brand that some estimates have pegged to be worth upward of $1.4 billion. Since launching as a small Montreal alt magazine in 1994, Vice Media now has its tentacles into nearly every type of traditional media, from an online news channel to a hit TV show on HBO. Rupert Murdoch is an investor.
BuzzFeed could—and likely will—follow a similar trajectory as it continues to grow. (It isn't hard to imagine "BuzzFeed the TV Channel" as a more earnest version of VH1. Countdowns galore!) But as Vice, the Huffington Post, and others have shown us, when an exciting new media brands grow up—when it's stops being "new"—the challenge then becomes not looking like the slow-moving media establishment you were originally created to subvert.