The latest round of fundraising was led by the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, according to a statement released by BuzzFeed on Thursday. Past participating investors that added to the new cycle of funding included RRE, Hearst, SoftBank and Lerer Ventures. The entrepreneurs Michael and Kass Lazerow, who previously co-founded Buddy Media, also contributed to the company’s funding for the first time.
BuzzFeed, which climbed to prominence in digital publishing in 2012 thanks to its unique method of combining viral and editorial content, said that its revenue more than tripled last year. The site hired former political reporter Ben Smith as its first editor-in-chief that year, and under his leadership the website added 10 new verticals for coverage ranging from politics and LGBT issues to animals and food. The company now has 180 employees based in three offices across the U.S. and boasts that it received more than 40 million unique monthly visitors. Someone even created a Tumblr page to poke fun at its rapid, seemingly endless growth over the past year.
BuzzFeed didn’t reveal its specific plans for the new funding, but the company hinted in its statement that, in addition to adding more hires and regional offices, it will focus on expanding its mobile and video presence. Mobile currently contributes more than a third of BuzzFeed’s traffic, according to the company’s statement.
While BuzzFeed's series C fundraising focused on turning the website’s raw potential into a Web-friendly news organization, 2013’s new round seems to be focused on bringing the site’s impressive reach to an elite class of media organizations.
“We have the senior management, board and investors we need to build the next great media company: socially native, tech enabled, with massive scale. We are all focused on that big goal and raised this capital to move even faster,” Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s Founder and CEO, said in a statement.
Patrick Kearns of NEA, who lead the firm’s investment, echoed Peretti’s vision for the company, saying, "we think BuzzFeed will be one of the great media companies of the next decade.”
While BuzzFeed has become something of a media darling thanks to its achievements throughout 2012, its continued success only adds pressure to the expectation that company will transform its brand identity from a site that posts silly lists (known as listicles) and cute animal videos into one that also serves as a serious journalistic outlet. Just one day before BuzzFeed announced its new fundraising, for instance, GigaOM asked if the website was just a “mix of highbrow and tabloid sleaze.”
For the duration of 2012, BuzzFeed seemed to maintain that the site could not only post both serious and silly content successfully, but that it could do so simultaneously. Speaking to David Carr of the New York Times in February 2012, Peretti said that the site’s unique editorial strategy was simply a result of adapting to a paradigm shift in how people consume digital media.
“As the world has realigned from being about portals and then search and now social, how do you build a media company for a social world?” Peretti told the New York Times. “And a big part of that is scoops and exclusives and original content, and it’s also about cute kittens in an entertaining cultural context.”