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Vivek Ramaswamy is wrong about Buzzfeed.

Vivek Ramaswamy is wrong about Buzzfeed.

Jun 1, 2024
Culture

Vivek Ramaswamy is wrong about Buzzfeed.

I was out hiking in Yellowstone and missed this one last week. It was the first time I was away from the internet for more than 48 hours. I saw some cool animals, but I am NEVER leaving the internet again because then I miss out on stories like this.

Vivek Ramaswamy became the second largest shareholder in Buzzfeed. You can read his whole post in this tweet below if you want, but the only part that matters is highlighted below.

"PHASE 2: INVEST IN CREATOR-LED AUDIO & VIDEO CONTENT

The creator economy is one of the few parts of the digital media business that is thriving. Goldman Sachs projects that creator economy revenue will hit $500 billion by 2027. Most internet traffic is now mobile; on mobile devices, programmatic video advertising has grown 36% since 2020 while programmatic digital display advertising is slightly down. Meanwhile, YouTube ad revenue was up 21% in Q1 to over $8 Billion.

The good news is you already have a template for how to take advantage of this opportunity: First We Feast is an unqualified success, with break-out hit “Hot Ones” generating millions of views per episode, not to mention cultural relevance. The top episode has 125 million YouTube views.

BuzzFeed is well-positioned to double down in this direction, with over 60 million YouTube subscribers across Buzzfeed’s associated channels and over 280 million social media followers and subscribers. You have the pipes, but you’re missing the fluid. With fresh audiovisual content and a fresh new brand (see below), you have an opportunity to create real value quickly.

Attracting top video talents doesn’t have to be expensive: adopt an “eat-what-you-kill” model for the content creators you attract.

Give them uncapped upside in what they generate, allowing you to attract top content creators for lower base salaries, while giving them the know-how, tools, and monetization support that they wouldn’t have on their own.

Hedge funds like Millennium have operated in this way with great success for decades. The biotech company that I founded and led as CEO from 2014-2021, Roivant, successfully deployed a similar hub-and-spoke model to pharmaceutical development. There’s no reason why a new-age media company can’t do the same. This approach makes sense now more than ever, when audiences are weary of tired corporate media brands and are drawn instead to individual human talents who they can “look in the eye” and relate to.
You could quickly attract some of the best content creators on the internet. They would have uncapped upside in their work, in a way they just can’t at CNN or Vox. At the same time, they would benefit massively from your social media and YouTube distribution channels with millions of built-in subscribers and followers that they would otherwise struggle to build from scratch. This win-win talent model is a great way for BuzzFeed to expand rapidly without massive CapEx.

Go for talents across the political and cultural spectrum. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to challenge your audiences.

From Candace Owens to Destiny, Tucker Carlson to Bill Maher, Aaron Rodgers to Charles Barkley, no talent should be off-limits to platform, hire, or acqui-hire."
No other content publisher is doing this across the spectrum today. By adopting this strategy, you would fill a wide-open vacuum in media and lay the foundation for the most important asset that BuzzFeed lacks today: a brand.

No other content publisher is doing this, which is the craziest statement I have ever read from a media standpoint. Every content publisher is doing this. Everyone. This is literally the only model for building a media company in 2024. Night Media, Barstool, etc. Buzzfeed is 5-10 years too late.

Buzzfeed built its entire distribution model off of this deck, and at one time, it was genius. Buzzfeed was way ahead of its time when it came to data and visualization around virality. However, platforms actually owned all of their distribution. You cannot game your way out of this once the walled garden of a platform decides to shut off your distribution. They lost, and there is no coming back from this.

I mean, they even screwed up their 20 million subscribers (subscribers don't matter anymore on Youtube) channel. Their last video is sitting on 9k views in 3 days!

Tasty, another Buzzfeed property which could have been valuable went all in on short form video (another useless metric) and ruined that channel.

Ok, now that I have trashed it, I guess I have to save it. This is what you do.

  1. Fire everyone. That is the thing Vivek got right. You have to fire every single person who works there. Keep "Hot Ones" ONE data engineer and everyone else is fired.
  2. Delete every single post/video but "Hot Ones." Yes, the website, the socials, and all of it. Delete it all. You are averaging SIX likes on a post. Delete them all, but keep the followers. Buzzfeed, as a brand, is dead.

  1. This is the big one, so listen closely, Vivek. Hold an auction for the accounts. But not a money type of auction. They are not buying the accounts; it is a "social" auction with a 50/50 split of revenue earned in perpetuity for all the accounts. Example:

Someone like the Bablyon Bee offers to "buy" the twitter account for Buzzfeed News because they know how to drive traffic via twitter.

Emma Chamberlain offers to "buy" Tasty because she wants to make food content around her coffee brand.

  1. The one data engineer you kept in #1 is there to track everything and rebrand the website as the first-ever "social capital" tracker. They show how XYZ made money from Instagram, How ABC made money from Snapchat, etc. You show all the revenue from each account, and people will visit the website daily to see what's happening. Did prominent YouTubers ruin the channel they "bought," or are they making millions more? No one will want to fail because all their numbers will be there daily for people to see.

No one is coming to "work for" Buzzfeed or to "partner" on the accounts unless they can fully take it over. Kill the brand and let the real internet people make you rich. You can't "hire" them. You trade them the distribution for money, or you just wasted $5 million bucks, Vivek.

(unless it was a pump-and-dump scheme, which it probably was, in which case, good for you, Vivek.)

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