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Viral content site BuzzFeed seems intent on transforming itself into a source of serious, in-depth news coverage, but this definitely isn’t the only thing the company is spending time developing.
Today, for instance, BuzzFeed VP of product Chris Johanesen revealed that the company is actively putting together a team of developers to build casual games for the site. Why games? Well, Johanesen told TechCrunch‘s Anthony Ha that the company wanted to do something that didn’t just get people to consume media but to engage with it as well. He also referenced the success BuzzFeed saw in creating its own quizzes, which some have pointed out is responsible for driving lots of traffic to the media site.
The move is likely part of BuzzFeed’s strategy for creating a media company that can do important content as well as the crap people will read even if they loathe admitting it. (Don’t act like you never visit BuzzFeed. The site sees an average of 130 million unique visitors per month, and you are probably one of them.) BuzzFeed initially rose to popularity by acting as a curated hub of viral content around the Web, and then it took a stab at creating content it predicted would go viral, which proved successful. And with the revenue generated by that kind of evergreen, cheap content (which I loving refer to as “candy”), it’s able to justify hiring a team of serious journalists to break news and do important reporting about politics, technology, business, and more.
This kind of thinking probably helped BuzzFeed close its recent $50 million round of funding, which it will apparently use to develop more strategies — such as developing games and quizzes — for keeping people returning to its website. It also has ambitions for creating video content on par with other popular movies/TV shows, which can get pretty expensive. And since building a successful news organization with a sustainable business model is proving difficult in the digital era, BuzzFeed’s non-traditional methods deserve some attention.
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As for the new games, Johanesen said BuzzFeed won’t be creating anything on par with something like Grand Theft Auto. The games will probably be engaging and get enough people interested to justify their existence. Johanesen noted that casual game-like functionality might even start popping up in the site’s advertising, too.
Casual games are enjoying success across many platforms (first on social networks like Facebook and now obviously on mobile devices). So it’s actually a bit surprising we haven’t see a news/media site try this sooner.
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