BuzzFeed News has introduced a redesign that sets it apart from its quiz-flaunting, pop culture-obsessed parent brand BuzzFeed. The new look aims to further its credentials as a home for respectable journalism.
The quietly activated rebrand launched in the US on Wednesday (19 July). It boasts a new black serif logo and the tagline 'reporting to you' – a distinct departure from its parent site's vivid 'lol', 'wtf' and 'omg' design flourishes (see above).
The refresh was announced on Twitter, quite aptly, with a gif.
BuzzFeed News has a new look and new home: https://t.co/V0GX2lSTNL
Now, you’ll find all our news coverage in one place — from investigations with impact to trending social news pic.twitter.com/I2Bi6qdV8E
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 18, 2018
As for the functionality of the site, when accessing an article on desktop, a dynamic trending bar at the top of the page displays topical stories from across the BuzzFeed ecosystem. This is condensed into a trending topics bar on mobile. All news articles published on the main BuzzFeed portal now lead to the new site.
In tribute to the new look, here's a listicle outlining the reasons for the change.
Reason 1: To position BuzzFeed News as a serious place for journalism
Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, circulated a message observing that BuzzFeed News has 250 staff members and editors across the globe, many of them experienced reporters and journalists. Therefore, he said, the new website needed to “reflect the depth” of BuzzFeed News' reporting.
Smith added that the site will be “in keeping with the best journalistic traditions, but in the native language of the internet”.
An internal memo explained the decision to give BuzzFeed News its own distinct brand in more detail. It highlighted some of the group’s top reporting, such as the Kevin Spacey exposé, R. Kelly sexual abuse allegations, suspected Russian hits on British soil, and the US’s lacking response to the Puerto Rico disaster.
On their old home, these hard-hitting reports arguably jarred with BuzzFeed entertainment staples such as the 'Which Friend Are You?' and ‘5 Reasons Why’ quizzes that the whole brand is often unfairly judged by.
Reason 2: It has already created distinct and separate brands
This is not the first time BuzzFeed has sought to give one of its products a distinct identity.
Chief executive Jonah Peretti noted that the company had already launched disparate brands and platforms such as Tasty and As/Is. These, he said, have “design and product features that reinforce their unique identities and better serve their many fans”.
In a statement, the company admitted BuzzFeed News has suffered from something of an image problem.
“[Readers] sometimes confuse BuzzFeed News with classic BuzzFeed, rather than associate it with the major news outlets it competes with for scoops on a daily basis," it read. "And so we have been doing more and more to create clear brands, while continuing to take advantage of our shared scale and full tech stack.”
It will not be a full separation of church and state however, according to Peretti. “Of course, BuzzFeedNews.com will continue to circulate BuzzFeed content, and vice versa," he said. "It’s a big step for our organization and another great tool to engage readers with our reporting.”
Reason 3: A sale has been rumoured for a while
Now a boundary has been established between BuzzFeed News and its fun sibling BuzzFeed, it could arguably be easier to sell the separate parts of the company.
Two years ago it split entertainment and news on the site, and ever since it has been floated that a sale may be in the works. BuzzFeed spokespeople have rejected the notion that a sale is being prepared.
As it stands, the brands are bonded. The databases and URLs are still intrinsically linked. The company may still believe it can cross-pollinate audiences between them.
At the very least this move will allow BuzzFeed News to build a distinct audience and tailor its marketing, which may pay much-needed dividends on the ad revenue side. Back in 2017, the firm turned its back on its native ads-only strategy amid some monetisation difficulties. Banner ads were added to the infrastructure.
Just last month it overhauled its advertising department and laid off numerous staff members. At the time, Lee Brown, BuzzFeed chief revenue officer, said the company was taking steps to further strengthen its advertising team and support its diversifying revenue mix.
It may benefit from its move upmarket according to former BuzzFeed political editor Jim Waterson (now media editor at The Guardian). He noted that it now has a clear differentiation point from BuzzFeed.
My former employer seems to have launched a standalone BuzzFeed News website with absolutely no cats, no LOL buttons, and only one Kardashian link. It looks... quite a lot like an upmarket establishment news site? https://t.co/cOEW5Hn6UM — Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) July 18, 2018
How will these efforts fare? Well, that's a listicle for another time.