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Although it doesn’t always get a lot of respect in the media-sphere, BuzzFeed is one of the digital-first media companies I pay close attention to — in part because founder Jonah Peretti thinks long and hard about how content works online, and also because the company seems to see media as more of a service than most traditional media companies tend to. Doing that requires data, and BuzzFeed just acquired some more chops in that area by buying a company called Torando Labs for an undisclosed sum.
Torando Labs hasn’t actually done very much that has made it into public view, apart from some experimentation with mobile apps, but it has one big thing going for it: it was founded by the co-founder and former chief technology officer of Bitly, Todd Levy, who becomes VP of data engineering for BuzzFeed.
When it comes to data about the social sharing of content — something that is to BuzzFeed what electricity is to Tesla Motors — Bitly was the first to treat that kind of thing scientifically, and it quickly built up a huge database of information about how content is shared. On top of that, it was able to process and track these massive amounts of sharing in something approaching real time.
That kind of expertise is something that would fit well inside BuzzFeed, given the company’s approach to content — something that becomes obvious not just when talking to Peretti (or reading the massive interview he did with Felix Salmon earlier this year) but in decisions like the naming of data-science head Dao Nguyen as publisher, which Peretti recently announced.
BuzzFeed CTO Mark Wilkie told TechCrunch that the acquisition of Torando was designed to add more infrastructure know-how to the data team, and to be the foundation of a group that could support the data science the company wants to do.
Just as not every media company (traditional or digital) would name a data scientist as publisher, not every media outlet even has a data-science team, let alone an infrastructure team designed to support them. But if those media companies were thinking about the future of their business, and paying attention to those who do the same — including BuzzFeed — they would be working on getting one.
Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Thinkstock / Sergey Niven