Buzzfeed follows the ad money, much like its competitors, as it unveils plans to build two branded content studios in the UK

Buzzfeed's Brant McLean

Buzzfeed, much like its digital rivals, is pumping investment into branded video content, unveiling plans to build two studios and double its office space in London as it looks to become the international video hub.

Publishers taking branded content in-house is not a new trend, with Mashable, CNN and the New York Times among those restructuring to service their clients directly. While it makes sense for publishers to seek out new revenue streams given how tough it is to make substantial earnings from display advertising, there's a lingering concern that by doing so they are increasingly a threat to those agencies that would've otherwise provided that service.

BuzzFeed’s new commercial head for Europe Brant McLean was keen to assure The Drum that the creation of the new branded studios will work to “enhance” the publisher’s relationship with agencies, bringing the creative agencies closer to the content creation. Yet McLean, who has joined as senior vice president of brand strategy from the US where he led regional sales teams, admitted the agency-to-publisher relationship in the US is very different to the UK.

Despite many publishers blurring the line between church and state as branded content becomes more prominent, as illustrated by the City AM and Forbes model, McLean believes at BuzzFeed “news is always going to be separate”, arguing that this is the only way it can “keep our integrity”.

To attract brands with smaller pockets, Buzzfeed also announced a new video ad product, ‘Headstart’, which has been designed for partners looking for a cost effective video product that shortens the overall production timeline.

Video is where BuzzFeed sees revenues thriving, as its recent branded campaigns for Skoda and Baileys outline. These reached views in their millions, while shares were equally boast worthy - the latter reaching 274K shares.

Its growth on video is largely thanks to new networks, Tasty and Nifty, which lend themselves well to brand collaboration. The publisher claims Tasty is now the largest food network in the world after less than 12 months in operation, reaching 500m people every month. Proper Tasty, its UK counterpart, has accumulated 2.5bn views since launch last December.

Tasty’s success is emblematic of the publisher’s reliance on third party platforms, which drives between 70% to 80% of traffic to BuzzFeed’s content, and is on the rise. Yet while this may be a concern for traditional publishers whose aim is to drive users back to site, Janine Gibson, BuzzFeed’s UK editor-in-chief said increased distribution is something “we strive for”.

“We don’t sell display advertising so we have no particular to drive people to see a banner ad,” she said, “What we want to do is make sure our stuff is everywhere. Our goal for the next year is to learn how to flex much more seamlessly between different media.”

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