They say that all you have in the news business is your credibility. Yet just two weeks after news that Buzzfeed deleted multiple posts from its site in response to pressure from advertisers, the company drew such a horde of marketers and advertisers to its upfront presentation at B.B. King’s Bar & Grill in Times Square that it had to turn people away.
The company has gotten a lot of media attention for its attempts at more rigorous, long-form journalism, but the crowds that flocked to B.B. King’s suggest that marketers and advertisers still look at the site as a millennial traffic magnet rather than a standard bearer for journalism.
“I don’t think of Buzzfeed as a serious news website,” said Aaron Perrino, a vice president of content creation at Media Hub. “They’re one of the portals that people go to to waste time. I don’t think this is going to hurt them very much.”
Stats from Monday's presentation bore that out. Slides shown during a speech by Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti indicated the company is now generating 1 billion video views per month with its video content, as well as more than 200 million monthly views of its regular content. A growing team of content producers working out of studios in California is now generating some two hours' worth of short-form original video content every week, and it is on the verge of debuting some medium- and long-form content as well.
Monday’s presenters also unveiled a pair of products designed to help marketers measure how their commissioned text and video content performed on the social web. The core of Buzzfeed's business is native advertising, or posts that are meant to look and feel like the rest of the content found on a particular website or in a specific publication. In recent months, some people have challenged the effectiveness of those ads. On Monday, Buzzfeed’s publisher, Dao Nguyen, unveiled POUND, a tool currently in beta and a tortured acronym for Process for Optimizing and Understanding Network Diffusion.
It also announced that it would roll out a video-specific dashboard for advertisers that would allow them to track their performance across all channels where Buzzfeed videos are available.
The optics of having tons of people trying to get into its event might have served Buzzfeed well, had it not been so calculated. For a second consecutive year, the company chose a small venue and sent out a few too many invitations. RSVPs, attendees were told, did not guarantee entry, and so, nearly an hour before doors were supposed to open, marketers from across the country had gathered in a line that extended half a crosstown block before rounding the corner north onto Eighth Avenue.
“A lot of people are not going to get in,” said Brian Decker, a managing director at Mindshare who found himself about a hundred yards away from the front of the line. Decker, who has a meeting scheduled with Buzzfeed later this week, smiled when asked if he thought the practice of overbooking an upfront was done for practical rather than marketing reasons. “It couldn’t have been more premeditated,” he said.