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BuzzFeed Wants to Use a New Measuring Stick to Tell You How Big BuzzFeed Is

Out with "unique visitors," says BuzzFeed's publisher. In with ... something else.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

BuzzFeed is a very big digital publisher.

How big? That’s a question that is harder for BuzzFeed to answer than it would like.

In the past, BuzzFeed would point to the number of people who were visiting, which is a very big number — in the U.S., comScore pegs that number at 80 million people per month.

But over the past year, BuzzFeed has been explicitly focused on getting people to read and watch its stuff in places beyond its website: Facebook Instant articles, Facebook videos, Instagram posts, Snapchat … stuff, etc. Most of that stuff doesn’t register with comScore, or any other official Web traffic counter. And even less of it gets counted when someone consumes it on a phone or outside the U.S.

So BuzzFeed is arguing that it needs new metrics to define its audience, and that a single one won’t do. In a new post, BuzzFeed Publisher Dao Nguyen says that if you add all of the ways BuzzFeed likes to count its audience, it has global reach of about 400 million people. “[Unique visitors] were useful for a long time,” she writes. “Now let’s stop talking about UVs as a way to measure BuzzFeed’s audience.”

If you were a skeptical person, or even a cynical person, you might note that UVs are less useful for BuzzFeed and Nguyen because BuzzFeed’s UVs have stopped growing. They’re been anchored in the 75 million to 80 million range for the last year. So of course they want new metrics, or the “BuzzFeed is booming” story will be harder to tell:

But the skeptical/cynical argument and the one Nguyen is making aren’t mutually exclusive. For starters, 80 million people is a lot of people. If you reach that many people in the U.S. it’s going to be hard to get much bigger, no matter what metric you use.

And here are some charts, via BuzzFeed, which tell a much more encouraging growth story:


More important: As many more publishers focus on audience and views beyond the properties they own (welcome, Choire!) my hunch is you’ll hear other big publishers asking people not to focus on UVs, either.

So the real question is whether advertisers and investors and potential acquirers will play along.

Watch Chartbeat’s CEO explain the evolving world of digital publishing

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