BuzzFeed’s journalism arm is now putting out its hat, asking for any spare change.
The media company’s news website plans to launch a new feature that will ask readers to donate some cash in the name of the journalism it publishes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Here we have one more example of a media company trying to bring in non-advertising revenue any way that it can. This is an interesting development for BuzzFeed News, given that it was an independent extension of one of the most successful media companies to capitalize on early digital advertising platforms. When it first launched in 2006, BuzzFeed was the force behind annoying online quizzes and the kind of exclamation-point-filled headlines meant for Facebook. It seemed like the unstoppable media company, with new video-heavy verticals and big partnerships in the pipeline. The news section was a way for the company to prove itself as a serious organization, while the other parts of the company likely helped it stay afloat.
But the digital forces that helped skyrocket BuzzFeed–namely, the rise of digital platforms like Facebook and Google–have changed over the last few years. And because of algorithm tweaks and the growing ad duopoly, media company revenues are either plateauing or dipping. So BuzzFeed is taking a cue from other journalistic organizations that have asked for reader help in order to stay afloat.
The Wall Street Journal adds that those who make contributions to BuzzFeed News will be given notifications about big stories it publishes, and that this could be a lead-up to a membership program. If true, this would be following in the footsteps of places liked Wired, Vanity Fair, and Business Insider, all of which have launched variations of a paywall. BuzzFeed has also been inking television deals with companies like Netflix as another way to diversify revenue, as well as looking toward merchandizing opportunities with brands like Tasty.
All these moves come nearly a year after news broke that BuzzFeed was going to miss revenue targets. This led to layoffs, as well as some strategy changes, it seems.
We’ll have to wait and see how many BuzzFeed News readers are ready to part ways with cash. You can read the full Wall Street Journal report here.