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Stockbait? BuzzFeed plots IPO as clicks and videos keep public hooked

The Guardian // 31st May 2015

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Stockbait? BuzzFeed plots IPO as clicks and videos keep public hooked” was written by Sam Thielman in New York, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 27th May 2015 22.34 UTC

BuzzFeed is planning an IPO, the company’s CEO, Jonah Peretti, announced at a tech conference on Wednesday. It’s a long-expected move from the wildly popular site, which in recent years has moved from simple aggregation and funny listicles into video, hard political news and arts coverage. Peretti didn’t say when the IPO would happen, but investors are likely to want to know soon.

BuzzFeed’s mix of serious news articles and videos and sponsored content has led detractors, including Noam Chomsky, to criticise the company’s business model. More than once recently, BuzzFeed’s sponsors have demanded the removal of editorial content – and gotten their way. Consumers don’t seem to mind: the company’s videos boast a billion views a month, it told audiences in its annual presentation to prospective (and established) advertisers in Manhattan in April. And it produced more than 1,800 of those videos in the last 12 months.

The tech concern works closely enough with advertisers to be perceived by the relatively staid agency world as a threat; much of the advertising video and text on the site is produced by teams in-house at BuzzFeed, and clients are happy to have it that way, given how successful the company has been at getting users to share its posts.

All that is a part of BuzzFeed’s stellar valuation: $850m in August, during its Series E round of funding, when Silicon Valley investor Andreesen Horowitz poured $50m into the company. For comparison, younger upstart media company Vox was recently valued at $380m.

The move comes as other hot tech firms are considering becoming public companies. SnapChat, recently valued at $15bn, just announced its own IPO at Code.

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