BuzzFeed’s new revenue model asks for reader donations

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 28 August 2018

BuzzFeed News is piloting a membership model that asks readers to chip in with donations.

Working in partnership with Google, the digital media company is adding messaging pages that asks for small donations of $5-$100 on the bottom of new articles.

The donation feature asks readers to “help us report to you” and says support will help BuzzFeed News to "report more news and break down for you what's happening in the world".

It’s a similar model to The Guardian, which has had success in asking readers for donations, now with 65,000 paying Australian readers. Most recently Guardian Australia exceeded its $150,000 crowd-funding goal by $50,000.

Contributors to BuzzFeed News will receive updates on big investigations and access to new video programming, AdNews understands.

If the program is successful, BuzzFeed News will explore various perks for members but the company has no plans to charge its readers for content, according to Digiday.

Following fake news sagas and a trust epidemic in mainstream media, people have become more willing to pay for quality news, which has driven subscriptions locally at News Corp and Fairfax, and globally at The New York Times and The Washington Post.

BuzzFeed News is looking to capitalise on this shift as well as raise revenue following lacklustre 2017 results where the company missed its revenue targets of $350 million by almost 20%. Following the poor results, BuzzFeed News has been exploring various revenue models, introducing display advertising, merchandising around the Tasty food vertical and production deals with Netflix and Twitter.

BuzzFeed News said it’s working on its membership program as part of the Google News Initiative, which is a slate of initiatives aimed at helping news publishers.

Locally, Fairfax entered into a partnership with Google across digital advertising, technology and product development. AdNews has approached Fairfax to see if it would explore a similar model.

The last 12 months have been tough for BuzzFeed’s global business with financial results leading to global redundancies. Earlier this year, a wave of staff left the Australian business, including VP of brand partnerships, David Nemes, who was recently replaced by Andrea Ingham. BuzzFeed GM Simon Crerar defended the company's local operations - read more here.

BuzzFeed has been approached for comment.

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