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Inside BuzzFeed's first upfront event

Apr 28, 2022
Illustration of a hundred dollar bill with a party favor and surrounded by balloons

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

BuzzFeed CRO Edgar Hernandez was sweating Wednesday, but it wasn't about the company's low stock price. He was eating a spicy chicken wing for a live version of the talk show "Hot Ones" as part of BuzzFeed's first upfront event.

Why it matters: As a 15-year-old mainstream name in media that's recently become a publicly traded company, BuzzFeed held its first upfront to woo advertisers. During the three-hour event, execs explained new initiatives within BuzzFeed's portfolio of brands.

Details: The upfront drew about 120 attendees to The Times Center (not including BuzzFeed staff). There were no celebrities (other than "Hot Ones" host Sean Evans), musical performances or other glitzy elements typical of an upfront. Rather, it was a 45-minute presentation bookended by food and non-alcoholic drinks.

  • CEO Jonah Peretti opened the event with a four-minute speech touting how BuzzFeed started with a "revolutionary idea" to "create content designed for the people and platforms where they already are." But now that's ubiquitous in media. The pitch seems to be that BuzzFeed does it well, and at scale.
  • News included expanding access to Lighthouse, its first-party data platform; launching UpShots, an ad product for vertical video including Instagram Reels, TikTok and YouTube Shorts; and doubling the size of its more than 100-person creator network Catalyst.
  • Peretti also said Amazon Prime Video acquired two feature films BuzzFeed produced with Lionsgate that will premiere this summer.
  • The company's two food brands, Tasty and First We Feast, are hosting "Eat Your Feed Festival." Next month is the third year of a virtual shopping event called ComplexLand, and later this year is ComplexCon in California.
  • HuffPost will relaunch HuffPost Voices, a section to "highlight and uplift more young, Black, Asian, women, queer and Latinx writers," EIC Danielle Belton said.
  • BuzzFeed News will host an awards event called 19 Under 20 to honor young people excelling in sustainability, activism, innovation and business.

💭 Kerry's thought bubble: BuzzFeed News aims for profitability. The solution? A franchise like Forbes 30 Under 30 ... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The big picture: BuzzFeed's stock price has fallen 50% since it debuted on the Nasdaq in December. The erstwhile darling of digital media now faces pressure from Wall Street to grow its business, which relies on advertising.

  • Following his "Hot Ones" experience, Hernandez ended the event by saying, "If you're asking, 'Is that a milkshake he's carrying?' The answer is yes. And is it really that dramatic? The answer is yes. Is he really willing to go to this length to impress these people for future partnerships? The answer is yes."

What's next: BuzzFeed reports its first quarter of 2022 earnings on May 16.

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