BuzzFeed news intends to fight a pending lawsuit with the White House by proving the infamous “pee tape” exists. According to a report in Foreign Policy, the website has hired a crack team of investigators led by none other than former White House cybersecurity official Anthony Ferrante, the same man who once oversaw the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign after the 2016 election. Ferrante left the White House in April 2017 to work with FTI consulting. He’s now tasked with verifying the legitimacy of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and the…
If Facebook wants to influence what shows up in its News Feed, it should pay publishers.
Facebook has been mostly good about sharing traffic with publishers through News Feed.
But BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti thinks Facebook should also be willing to share in the revenue it makes from New Feed.
“The big question with Facebook is most of Facebook’s revenue is in News Feed, and that’s where they’ve not shared revenue,” he said at Code Media in Huntington Beach, Calif.
The places Facebook has been willing to share money, Peretti pointed out, are in areas with smaller audiences, like its new Watch section that houses original video content, or Instant Articles.
He added: “These are places with a lot less distribution so there’s a lot less revenue.”
The larger point Peretti is trying to make is that if Facebook wants to have more influence over what appears in New Feed — as well as what doesn’t appear like fake news or Russian trolls — it would have an easier time doing so if it paid publishers.
“Facebook will have no chance to control what’s in News Feed if the only lever they have is traffic, because the only way to say we want influence over this content is if you have a lever of content and a lever of revenue,” he said.
Peretti cited an earlier Code Media speaker, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who reminded the audience that her company recently took action against one of its biggest stars, video blogger Logan Paul, who has been posting questionable content, by suspending his ability to make money from his posts.
“Having the lever to demonetize is very powerful,” Peretti said.
Watch Peretti’s full interview below.
Facebook has been trying to find ways to profoundly change how news, real or otherwise, shows up in News Feed, and it has embarked on some key changes to its software to show what it considers to be more meaningful content. Some of that involves showing more posts from friends and family and fewer posts from news publishers.
Peretti had said in December how “the media is in crisis,” arguing how Facebook and Google have distorted the media ecosystem by hoovering up most of the digital ad revenue and putting “high-quality creators at a financial disadvantage.”
The critique was notable since Peretti is one of the few media executives who has the ear of Facebook and Google. Prior to BuzzFeed, Peretti had helped Arianna Huffington start the Huffington Post, which had grown on Peretti’s digital wizardry.
That suggested his letter was partly a sound of frustration on the part of the CEO.
He said of the big tech companies: “I don’t think they fully understand the perspective of media or content or other industries. Or, on occasion, they interact with people at media companies and they don’t think they’re that smart.”
Part of the problem is just miscommunication, he added.
Facebook executives Campbell Brown, who heads up news partnerships, and Adam Mosseri, who leads the group that manages News Feed, outlined the difficulty in managing the expectations of both publishers and Facebook’s audience earlier in the evening at Code Media.
“We’re trying to figure out how to best measure and understand that,” Mosseri said. “The key components are any interactions between two people. So it’s about people-to-people, not people-to-publisher or people-to-business or people-to-page.”
Remember when you read about the possibility of BuzzFeed News being spun off?
Media folks, remember when you read not too long ago about the possibility that BuzzFeed might spin off its news division?
Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, had a meeting with Emerson Collective, the organization started by billionaire investor and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs about a possible investment. A deal could have meant BuzzFeed News would no longer be a part of BuzzFeed.
Well, CEO Jonah Peretti has some very specific thoughts on that.
“I love BuzzFeed News, I love that it’s part of BuzzFeed,” he said at Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Of course, that doesn’t mean a deal like that it couldn’t ever happen, but Peretti was fairly unequivocal about the value of news to BuzzFeed.
“The reporting talent and the stories we’ve broken, I’m incredibly proud of it,” he said. “It helps us with the business. The only reason I’d ever have conversations with anyone about BuzzFeed News is how we could do more with it.”
So what happened?
If you’re in the media business, the situation as described by Peretti isn’t entirely unusual. Smith happens to be old friends with the executive at Emerson who heads up media, former New York Times journalist Peter Lattman, and the two “got a beer together.”
”In some ways, it was kind of blown out of proportion,” he said. “We have people come to us all the time, and we listen to them and talk to them.”
We won’t get into who contacted whom, but it’s worth noting that Lattman has become a key figure in media circles. His role at Emerson has become particularly important given Powell Jobs’ deep interest in the news business.
Plus, Amazon posted its 11th straight profitable quarter, Shari Redstone changed her mind again about that CBS/Viacom merger, and Monopoly for cheaters.
HQ Trivia, the trivia app with a huge audience and a controversial founder, has raised a funding round that values the company north of $ 100 million. Founders Fund, the venture firm founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, is expected to lead the round of $ 15 million. The round is notable because several investors were scared off by the reputation of co-founder Colin Kroll, who had been fired by Twitter after it acquired his Vine startup. [Kurt Wagner, Theodore Schleifer / Recode]
Apple posted its biggest quarter ever yesterday — revenue passed $ 88 billion in the first fiscal quarter, up 13 percent year over year, with $ 20 billion in profit. But it still disappointed analysts beacuse of mediocre sales of the iPhone X. [Dan Frommer / Recode]
Amazon is no longer a company that consistently loses money. The e-commerce giant has posted a profit for 11 straight quarters — including a record $ 1.9 billion during the holidays. The company also reported that its “other” revenue — which mostly means advertising, plus its co-branded credit card agreements — increased to $ 1.7 billion in the fourth quarter. That’s 60 percent growth year over year. Amazon has baked AI into nearly all of its products and services — here’s how deep learning came to power Alexa, Amazon Web Services and other divisions. [Jason Del Rey / Recode]
Alphabet disclosed the revenue of its Google Cloud business for the first time yesterday, during a conference call about the Google parent company’s otherwise unremarkable Q4 earnings. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the cloud is “already a billion-dollar-per-quarter business”; its rival, market-leading public cloud Amazon Web Services, generates roughly five times more revenue per quarter. [Jordan Novet / CNBC]
CBS and Viacom plan to merge (again). Shari Redstone, who controls both media companies, considered a possible deal in 2016, but changed her mind, believing that Viacom could turn around on its own. But a series of proposed mergers, kicked off by AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner, is forcing comparably smaller media companies to look for larger homes. Take a look at this chart of the current media landscape, which explains why Redstone now supports a merger. [Rani Molla and Peter Kafka / Recode]
BuzzFeed’s news unit is looking for financial help, and has talked to a rep for billionaire Laurene Jobs Powell. But a BuzzFeed board member denied that the company wants to spin its news group off. Big picture: BuzzFeed News generates lots of attention, but little revenue. That used to be ok, but it’s harder for BuzzFeed to justify that in 2018. [Peter Kafka / Recode]
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The New York Times, Fox News and the Washington Post have eclipsed BuzzFeed in U.S. visitors, according to comScore.
This post has been updated.
Major news sites have seen increased readership as Americans try to make sense of the tumultuous political climate, but BuzzFeed has seen its web traffic decline.
The company announced layoffs yesterday after missing revenue targets. A rep for BuzzFeed, which has long focused its business on advertising that travels across the web on sites like Facebook — but is increasingly trying to generate revenue from its own site — said the layoffs are “completely unrelated” and that its audience is “a major asset.”
While U.S. web traffic to CNN, the New York Times, Fox News and the Washington Post has grown over the past year, unique visitors to BuzzFeed’s website have been falling over the last two years. It saw 69.8 million U.S. readers in October, a 10 percent drop from the 77.4 million readers it drew in October 2016, and a 12 percent drop from 2015 when it had 79.3 million readers, according to comScore data.
Another third-party data source supports comScore’s findings. BuzzFeed’s website traffic in the U.S. declined to 106 million visits this October, down from 134.7 million visits in October 2016, according to data from SimilarWeb.
Since BuzzFeed does a lot of its publishing straight to Facebook, these figures don’t reflect that traffic. People watching its Tasty videos, for example, don’t show up in the data.
The measurement “doesn’t accurately represent our true reach,” a BuzzFeed spokesperson told Recode. “Last month, BuzzFeed overall had more than nine billion monthly global content views across platforms, and BuzzFeed News had more than 250 million pageviews to our web pages.”
According to BuzzFeed’s own measurements conducted through Nielsen — which include site traffic as well as social traffic on Facebook — BuzzFeed reached 163 million U.S. users in October, up from 160 million in August.
BuzzFeed declined to disclose the percentage of its revenue that occurs off-site on platforms like Facebook. But traffic to its website is still important for the publisher, which recently started letting advertisers put banner and other ads on its web pages. BuzzFeed also needs web traffic to help sell gadgets, another recent revenue source.
The company has built a lot of its business on social media, which has become a fickle source of traffic. Facebook is constantly readjusting its algorithms and publishers have lost out as a result of the latest changes. It caused traffic to viral sites like Upworthy and Distractify to plummet.
BuzzFeed’s site gets the biggest portion of its web traffic — 42 percent — from social media, according to SimilarWeb data over the past 18 months. This has propelled BuzzFeed’s business on social platforms, but also gives BuzzFeed less control over its destiny.
At the same time, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Fox News all saw peak web readership around last year’s presidential election and, more importantly, have managed to sustain gains amid continued political tension. Unlike BuzzFeed and other virally driven sites, the news sites get a majority of their traffic from readers going directly to their websites, or through search, according to SimilarWeb.
Facebook has historically made changes that affect publisher reach. The social giant started testing a news-only feed in a few countries earlier this year, for example, which crushed publisher traffic and created a potential scenario where publishers could be forced to pay Facebook in order to reach readers.
In an effort to combat fake news, Facebook recently employed a “disputed” tag for posts for stories that might be considered inaccurate by third-party fact-checkers working with the social network. Facebook has also been trying to show users more story options, with the idea that more options might present more viewpoints on the same piece of news.
In general, publications that downsized their editorial staff when they pivoted to video recently saw their traffic tank, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with BuzzFeed, which maintained a robust editorial staff.
This post has been edited and updated with additional comment from BuzzFeed and additional context.