BuzzFeed buttons
Credit: Image from

With the announcement of a $50 million investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, BuzzFeed outlined its expansion plans earlier this week, including a new BuzzFeed Distributed division. 

Its aim will be to create original content published directly to the social web, on platforms and apps like Instagram, Vine, Tumblr and Snapchat.

This isn't about directing traffic back to our websiteSummer Anne Burton, BuzzFeed
Summer Anne Burton, who will be heading BuzzFeed Distributed, told this new expansion is about anticipating what comes next.

"We've noticed a trend, especially for young people, towards apps and sites and platforms that provide a social network and content all in one," she said.

"Something like Instagram is a perfect example of that. You don't go to Instagram to find outside links, you go to view content within that world.

"And since we're always thinking about what people share... we're going to try and make content directly for those platforms."

Burton said one of the reasons why BuzzFeed has been successful is that it does not count on what has worked in the past working again in the future.

The concept was developed as an answer to the trend towards mobile, and the drop in teenage users Facebook has recently experienced, she said.

"The question is what are teens doing instead?," said Burton. "And I think this is part of the answer - they're messaging with their friends, they're using apps.

"They're using their cell phones rather than computers, and they're not necessarily visiting websites so much as they are in the world of Tumblr, in the world of Instagram."

buzzfeed on apps
Screengrabs of current content from BuzzFeed's Vine and Instagram accounts

The content BuzzFeed will be putting out on these channels will be bite-sized, easily consumable, and visual.

Burton said: "This isn't about directing traffic back to our website, so it won't be like making a list, exerting a part of it on Instagram and then trying to get people to click through to the whole thing. It'll be like 'what can we make that people will love that will just stand on its own?'"

She is hoping to hire illustrators, animators, and performers to tap into the visual side of the networks. They will produce mainly entertainment content at first, and based on the success of the initial experiments they will start to think about news.

Burton pointed to the rise of Vine stars as a good example of the scene in which BuzzFeed is trying to create a presence.

We just want to figure out what people like and people share, and establish an audience in those placesSummer Anne Burton, BuzzFeed
But if BuzzFeed is not trying to get people to go on the website, what is the main purpose of this expansion?

"I think there's a good chance that in five to ten years the internet is going to look really different, just like it did five or ten years ago," said Burton, "and one of those trends might be that people consume media within the places where they're also networking with their friends.

"We just want to figure that out and figure out what people like and people share, and establish an audience in those places and show that we're the best at making things that people love to share."

BuzzFeed's native advertising model could also be applied to this new strategy in the long term, as many companies are now producing advertisements for platforms like Vine or Instagram.

But with this new preference for combining content with social networking, young people are also turning away from the idea that everything on the internet is public, according to Burton. She said one of the challenges for BuzzFeed Distributed will be to not appear intrusive or overstep into anyone's private space.

"I think one of the challenges will be being really authentic and figuring out how to hire people that have personalities that feel very real and authentic," she said. "So that it's not like that feeling of when you see an ad in the middle of your Instagram. We don't want to be an ad, we want to be a really positive, cool thing."

The Distributed division is starting to hire, and will start producing content in the next few months, although an official launch is not expected until the new year.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).