BuzzFeed, the website responsible for polluting the internet with endless shitty listicles and cat GIFs just raised $50 million from the venture fund Andreessen Horowitz. Reports the Guardian:
The round takes BuzzFeed’s total funding to $96.3m since 2008, with the company reportedly planning to invest more in online video, acquisitions and an in-house incubator for technology startups.
BuzzFeed joins Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest and Foursquare in Andreessen Horowitz’s portfolio, with general partner Chris Dixon joining the company’s board as part of the round, which values BuzzFeed at $850m.
There's an argument to be made that this is a good thing for publishing in general. Marc Andreessen released a pretty inspiring statement on his site outlining his confidence on investing in news sites, saying:
I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10X to 100X from where it is today.
This is great to hear for anyone in the business, but when a company has built its name by ripping off other people's work with the dumbest crap on the internet, it's somewhat disheartening to see it rewarded so lavishly. It is true that BuzzFeed has spent a lot of money building out its serious news team, but the fact remains that it is largely a content mill for garbage aimed to induce frenzied clicking and Facebook sharing. Sure BuzzFeed will do some real reporting, but it will never be taken seriously or replace the listicle. It's too late in the game for that.
Investors don't put money into projects that will lose money, and Andreessen Horowitz will be looking for a hefty return on their investment. That profit will come largely from 'native advertising' (or sponsored posts) designed for maximum shareability. There's nothing wrong with that inherently - businesses need to make money, and native advertising is proving to be a very lucrative industry for publishers that have been starved of revenue for far too long. But when that money goes into a site like BuzzFeed, that sadly means we are set to get more BuzzFeed. While this is good news for founder Jonah Peretti, it is not good news for the internet. The last thing it needs is more listicles, more GIFs, and an even blurrier line between editorial and advertising.