Why BuzzFeed Still Doesn't Cover Business News
"The goal is to build the next great news organization."
That's BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith reflecting this week on his first year at the social-news publisher and the future he sees for it.
Since Mr. Smith arrived from Politico last December, BuzzFeed has ramped up original reporting and publishing around coverage areas such as politics, tech and lifestyle. Unlike top news organizations, however, the company has so far stayed away from covering one key category: business. It's true that a "great news organization" is not built in a year. But considering the speed at which BuzzFeed grew in 2012, not dedicating a staff to business coverage seems like a somewhat notable omission.
In a phone interview, Mr. Smith said BuzzFeed is still evaluating the best way for the site to approach business coverage in a way that is unique and lends itself to sharing on social networks.
"Business is vast," he said. "We can't compete on scale with specialized news wires. But it's a big space and you want to find the really social conversations, so we're taking our time to get things right."
That process started over the summer when the company took pitches from several business journalists about how a business section under their command would cover topics such as the economy and Wall Street with a BuzzFeed sensibility. Word got around:
But Buzzfeed did not hire any of them.
Is business news simply not compelling enough to spread across the social web on the scale that BuzzFeed is used to? The complexity of the subject could present one challenge, something that has become apparent in web traffic trends to BuzzFeed political stories. "Politics was huge around the election and has fallen off as the discussion of the fiscal cliff intensified," Mr. Smith said.
In a follow-up email, however, Mr. Smith said he's sure that there is room for BuzzFeed to put its stamp on business coverage.
"We're looking to do business, as we do everything, in a deliberate, social-first way, and are taking the time to figure out how to do great reporting in that space that 's well-suited for social distribution," he wrote. "We aren't rushing to check boxes. But we're convinced that there's a space in the social conversations for compelling and web-native business reporting, so business is in the cards for [next] year, and I'm continuing to have regular conversations with great business reporters."
Mr. Smith said advertiser demand, or lack thereof, plays no role in how he decides what areas BuzzFeed will tackle. "My goal in choosing verticals was first to make content that would become part of existing vibrant social conversations," he wrote, "and, second, to plant stakes in a varied range of spaces with an eye to attracting new audiences and spreading on new platforms."