BuzzFeed today said it had acquired Kingfish Labs, a startup founded in June 2011 to help people find compatible dates on Facebook. The publisher will use Kingfish's technology to enhance its ability to target Sponsored Stories on Facebook.
BuzzFeed sells advertisers sponsored content that gets placement on its homepage; it promotes it by buying Facebook Sponsored Stories and Twitter Promoted Tweets, as well as placement on StumbleUpon. The posts are created and published using the same staff and content management system as straight editorial. For example, a story called 24 Double Takes That Will Leave You Puzzled carries the subtitle "What did we just see? Double down with a double dose of some Starbucks Doubleshot and do a double take of these mind-boggling shots."
Kingfish's technology isn't analytics, according to Jon Steinberg, president of BuzzFeed. Instead, it's based on natural language processing to determine relevant categories or topics. "Kingfish is good at extracting natural language from information on Facebook and translating that into categorical targeting and classifications. They have used it to date to define people for dating - people that like fishing or romantic comedies - all by looking at free text. We are going to use that to show Sponsored Stories to people who will enjoy them the most," said Steinberg.
Despite all the post- IPO skepticism about Facebook's potential to build revenue by serving advertisers, Steinberg is a believer. "I think that the people who are questioning Facebook's advertising viability don't look at math and don't look at research," he said. "When you look at the performance of Sponsored Stories units … on both desktop and mobile, they significantly, by orders of magnitude, outperform engagement rates for the price [compared] to traditional display."
Also today, BuzzFeed announced that web video pioneer Ze Frank had joined the company as vice president of video. Frank will build a team of video producers in Los Angeles and establish a studio to create content native to the social web. Frank already had been working with BuzzFeed, taking some of its most viral content, such as The Angriest Babies in the Whole World, and creating videos from them that garnered millions of views on YouTube, according to Steinberg.
The videos will provide more inventory for BuzzFeed sponsors, letting them appear in pre-roll and YouTube TrueView ads. "We can potentially do our own advertising around our own content on YouTube," Steinberg said.
BuzzFeed's move into video content reflects a fragmented media landscape, Steinberg said. "If you're a publisher in this day and age, you need to be super flexible and provide resources where your clients want them, and work with the partners that your clients bring to bear. I know it seems like a lot. But we really do only one thing: create shareable content."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014