At the end of August, BuzzFeed signed a partnership deal with GroupM—the media-buying arm of major communications firm WPP and self-proclaimed “world’s largest media investment group”—to license out a combination of proprietary software and creative services.
While BuzzFeed gains access to GroupM’s large portfolio of clients, GroupM will be given a plethora of benefits. According to Advertising Age, the agency will receive “preferential” rates, a “creative residency” and dedicated staffers from BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, and, perhaps most importantly, exclusive access to BuzzFeed’s Pound analytics technology.
No investment or equity was involved in the deal and no specific terms were disclosed, though Rob Norman, chief digital officer at GroupM, told AdAge that the company expects “50 percent year-on-year growth” as a result of the partnership.
For all intents and purposes, BuzzFeed has now entered the content marketing tech space. As the company hinted at back when Pound was first announced, the social media analytics platform was always meant as more than just an editorial tool.
It’s easy to see why Pound is so attractive to brands and ad firms. The company is the envy of the media and marketing world for its seemingly supernatural ability to make content go viral. Its no surprise that one of the largest agencies in the world would be eager to get its hands on this supposed secret weapon.
The deal demonstrates not only BuzzFeed’s potential revenue plans going forward (building partnerships with firms and licensing proprietary software), but also agencies’ desire for content marketing tech. Moving forward, we’re likely to see more partnerships like this between media companies and agencies.
In fact, BuzzFeed isn’t the first media company to license its tech to a major agency. Vox Media—the other new media titan that, like BuzzFeed, recently landed a $200 million investment from NBCUniversal—recently partnered with DigitasLBi on similar terms. Like BuzzFeed, Vox Media offered proprietary tech—its publishing platform Chorus—and access to creative talent in exchange for DigitasLBi’s large list of brand clients.
Overall, the partnerships, along with NBCUniversal’s investments, demonstrate that Vox Media and BuzzFeed have cemented their place atop the new media pantheon—at least from a business perspective. It’s a potentially genius model: taking the tech, video, and social media prowess that drives editorial success and productizing it for advertisers.
It’s also an intriguing test of boundaries, both between the traditional separation of editorial and advertising and between media and tech.
Plus, the deal means it just might be time for BuzzFeed to add a new button to go along with mainstays like LOL and Fail: SaaSy.
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