Social media optimized and meme focused aggregator BuzzFeed has just raised a $15.5 million round of Series C financing, lead by New Enterprise Associates and followed on by Lerer Ventures, Hearst Media, Softbank and RRE Ventures. In addition to the funding, NEA General Partner Patrick Kerins will be taking a position on the BuzzFeed board and Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer will be moving on up to BuzzFeed Executive Chairman.
Indeed, it seems like at least part of the Huffington Post band will be getting back together with this newest round of BuzzFeed expansion, as former HuffPost President Greg Coleman will also be joining the board as an advisor. BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti was technical co-founder of HuffPost pre-Aol acquisition (Paul Berry was CTO).
This financing comes after some major BuzzFeed milestones, mainly snagging Politico's Ben Smith to run the company's editorial efforts and more than tripling its traffic to 25 million monthly unique visitors in the past year. And also recently breaking the news that John McCain was going to endorse Mitt Romney, and posting this amazing list of “The 30 Most Important Cats Of 2011.” And also also this hilarious list of “25 People Who Thought Lil Kim Died.”
When asked about the company's future plans, co-founder Peretti tells me, “The biggest shift for us is refocusing under Ben [Smith] as an organization that does real reporting and original content.” After all, scoops and breaking news are just as viral as aggregation … Peretti hypothesizes that most successful content sites in the future will have a mixture of both light-hearted and compelling images, videos and lists in addition serious and emotionally impactful content.
The company was accidentally profitable this summer before it started aggressively hiring and revenue has been growing more quickly than traffic Peretti says. Buzzfeed eschews traditional advertising in favor of socially focused ads from brands like Disney and Microsoft.
Peretti also flouts the common wisdom that taking VC money is a risk for a content site, “It's so expensive competing against major media organizations,” he says “And now we can do it.”