“Its massive traffic numbers notwithstanding, BuzzFeed is not actually in the traffic business, and describing it as a ‘web traffic sensation’ rather misses the whole point of the company. While a company like Business Insider makes money by selling inventory to advertisers, BuzzFeed doesn’t: you won’t see any ads on a BuzzFeed story page. If you feel a little bit disappointed after clicking through to a Business Insider story, at least the company has sold your visit to a client. But if you feel a little bit disappointed after clicking through to a BuzzFeed story, BuzzFeed gets no benefit at all. The people at BuzzFeed want their stories and quizzes and videos to ideally reach everybody who will love them — and no one else.
“Similarly, while BuzzFeed did feature a lot of lists early on, what it’s really good at is not making lists so much as it is placing its finger on the pulse of what people really like to consume on the Internet right now — and creating the products they’re going to love to consume on the Internet tomorrow. Once upon a time, BuzzFeed realized that if you took a slideshow and turned it into a single page with numbered pictures, that would be an improvement. But the perfection of the listicle was just a symptom of what BuzzFeed does—as was, a few years later, the perfection of the quiz format.
Related: How BuzzFeed Generates $20 Million a Year Without a Single Banner Ad