What does BuzzFeed’s new $20 million mean to you?

When things happen, BuzzFeed isn’t generally too far behind. The National Rifle Association (NRA) releases a statement promising a historic press conference? BuzzFeed’s got the paragraphs, quickly. Hillary Rodham Clinton is hospitalized for treatment of a blood clot? BuzzFeed has a list of those who’d alleged she was a faker, quickly. Joe Biden does something dumb. BuzzFeed’s on it, quickly.

So the impact of the nearly $20 million in new financing for BuzzFeed from its investors is sort of fitting: “We will do stuff faster,” says Editor Ben Smith, who oversees an editorial staff numbering between 60 and 70 folks. “We will grow faster.” Just what does that mean?

*It means pushing the politics crew to shift from campaign coverage to coverage of governance. The sixth member of BuzzFeed’s D.C. bureau just started work, says Smith.

*It means pushing more aggressively into mobile, into the Los Angeles news scene and into unspecified international projects.

*It means saddling up a breaking-news team that’ll catch stuff that falls between the cracks of BuzzFeed’s existing beat structure. Toward that end, BuzzFeed just brought on former NBC News staffer Ellie Hall.
*It means, in Smith’s wonky-nonsense words, going to where “the conversation is online.” When asked where that might be, Smith responds, “lots of different places.” In mouthing those absurdities, Smith actually short-shrifts what BuzzFeed does best, which is instructing people where the conversation should be headed. This week, for instance, BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller did a long piece on retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s years at Yale University, a piece I could have used around this time in 2000, not 2013. Yet BuzzFeed and its Twitter followers browbeat me into opening it up.
*And it means, of course, more lists and adorable photos — the stake that the site had already planted long before Smith jumped from Politico to BuzzFeed at the start of 2012. A great deal of the new investment, says Smith, is going into this area.
Though the word “fellowship” summons associations with wool suits and exalted institutions of learning, at BuzzFeed there’s a fellowship for cute animal content. People come in for a paid fellowship of about three months to learn how to set fire to the Internet via smart use of, say, BuzzFeed’s “cute” or “OMG” verticals. This particular fellowship program sprung from a supply imbalance in the market of professionals who are expert in cat-photography sourcing.
“It’s not like there’s a pool of people to draw from who don’t [already] work at BuzzFeed,” says Smith. “It’s harder to poach an animal editor than a political editor.”

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