Buzzfeed now sees 50 percent of its traffic coming from mobile devices. “Everything is going to the phone,” said Kenneth Lerer, chairman of Buzzfeed and Betaworks, at GigaOM’s paidContent Live 2013 conference in New York Wednesday.
Lerer co-founded the Huffington Post and now serves as managing director at Lerer Ventures. “It’s the best time in the last eight years to invest in digital content companies,” he said. With the technology for the web as well as mobile having been more or less built out, it’s now time to fill those pipes, he argued. “Content is king at a certain time. And I think content is king now.”
However, Lerer also cautioned that digital media investments are risky, with timing being everything. “If you’re too early, you lose all your money. If you’re too late, you don’t make any money,” he explained. And when you give cutting-edge companies seed money, it’s hard to predict how their business plans are going to pan out. “You have to kind of take the measure of the person,” he admitted.
So what are the big trends Lerer is seeing in media, aside from a huge shift to mobile? Video will play a huge role going forward, but there’s also a more fundamental shift in how consumers look at media properties. In short, they ignore everything media execs hold dearly. Instead of expecting a curated front page, they’re much more comfortable with a social feed, Lerer said. “When they see a Buzzfeed – to them, it’s just normal,” he added.
In the end, the companies that aren’t married to those old rules will prevail, Lerer argued: “I think the world is ending for traditional media companies, but it’s just beginning for digital media companies.”
Correction (04/19): A prior version of this story quoted Kenneth Lerer saying that 65 percent of Buzzfeed’s traffic is coming from mobile devices. We were subsequently contacted by a Buzzfeed spokesperson, who clarified that Lerer misspoke and that the site gets 50 percent of its traffic from mobile devices.
Check out the rest of our paidContent Live 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:
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A transcription of the video follows on the next page