BuzzFeed is having a moment, and it is taking advantage. After its dress post sucked in the Internet for a day, editor in chief Ben Smith sent a feel-good email to staff that served as a sort of updated mission statement: Web culture is now just culture and BuzzFeed owns it.
You can’t blame the company for marketing the hell out of an article that was essentially a re-blog of a Tumblr post and which wouldn’t have had the same mind-bogglingly global impact without BuzzFeed’s involvement. The timing of this viral explosion is especially interesting considering Facebook’s recent proposal to Web publishers (including BuzzFeed): Give us your content and we’ll make it go viral.
That’s kind of what BuzzFeed is saying by trumpeting that dress post: We make content go viral, even if we didn’t create it. That’s an important skill if it or any other Web publisher with visions of mass appeal ultimately wants to survive the whims of Facebook.
BuzzFeed used to have its own publisher network that sent traffic to other sites — they shut it down once BuzzFeed got really big — but it may start up a partner network for video soon. They already have a successful native ads program that generates the bulk of its $100 million in annual sales.
After the 36-million-plus views the single dress post generated, you have to figure that’s marketing enough for the site. But there’s always something new to peddle, and BuzzFeed’s latest gambit is nothing less than a new app called Cute or Not, basically a Tinder for animals.
And don’t think you won’t click, because BuzzFeed owns you. Just admit that truth to yourselves, and next time you won’t have to agonize over jumping into whatever “culture” vortex the site has just opened up.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.