Data-Driven Business Model Innovation in Journalism: A Case Study of Buzzfeed as a Platform of Public Good


Fake news became a buzzword especially after the 2016 US election leaving the concern of what is circulated on social media (Allcott & Gentzkow,2017). The business model implemented by the traditional news outlets was based on a print revenue stream, where their main profit came from the advertising. With the Internet, the legacy publishers were forced into the online business environment where information was easily accessible yet no clear revenue model implemented (Teece,2010). Inspired by HuffPost, BuzzFeed gained its audience by producing viral entertainment content. Without banner and video pre-roll ads, BuzzFeed created a unique business model, which has a socially inspired sharing and interaction strategy. 'In the face of the continuously changing challenges of the digital age, it is difficult for quality news journalism to survive on any significant scale if a means for adequately funding it is not available' (Anderson et al.,2013). To set foot into quality content, BuzzFeed started to produce investigative and data stories. Peretti's latest multi-revenue streams report offered a sustainable model and broke the rumor of axing BuzzFeed News. To combat misleading information and fake news, BuzzFeed produces information that has a public interest, as it plays a crucial role in ensuring that citizens are well informed. As Peretti states'[i]f you are thinking about an electorate, the subscription model in media doesn't support the broad public' (Roettgers,2017). With the aim to analyze the importance of BuzzFeed's business model, as a source of public good and yet still under-researched case, the paper focuses on understanding how the business model evolved and is contributing to the search for a sustainable business model in the industry. By in-depth empirical research and interviews with experts, this paper studies the role of BuzzFeed as a source of public good and three business models' evolution that formed up new ways to engage the audience. BuzzFeed has shown how being innovative and technology-driven can help news and media industry to survive their big competitors. Finally, the paper concludes with an agenda for perspectives in the journalism industry.

Author Information
Mathias Felipe de Lima Santos, Aalborg University, Denmark
Ruiqi Zhou, Aalborg University, Denmark

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2018
Stream: Digital Media and Use of New Technology in Newsgathering

This paper is part of the MediAsia2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon