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BuzzFeed thinks selling physical goods like hot plates and fidget spinners can be a serious business

BuzzFeed has a partnership coming with a “massive brick-and-mortar retailer.”

Ben Kaufman, the head of BuzzFeed’s Product Labs, speaks onstage at Code Commerce.
BuzzFeed’s Ben Kaufman, who runs the company’s BuzzFeed Product Labs commerce efforts
Keith MacDonald

BuzzFeed has built a business on listicles and cooking videos, but thinks it’s onto another serious business you may have been writing off — or didn’t even know existed.

The digital publisher is now selling physical goods, things like fidget spinners, candles and a Bluetooth-enabled hot plate. And while, yes, BuzzFeed admits it’s experimenting with what to build and sell, its physical goods business is not just a novelty.

“We are definitely playing around,” Ben Kaufman, head of BuzzFeed Product Labs, the arm of the company handling its commerce efforts, said Wednesday at the Code Commerce conference in New York. “But the funny story about the fidget spinner is I thought it was going to be like a 30-day item and then die. Last time I checked it was still like the number nine SKU [product] on right now. Which is crazy.”

Kaufman also talked about the success of the company’s first cookbook: BuzzFeed sold 100,000 copies in 30 days.

BuzzFeed is even partnering with a “massive brick-and-mortar retailer” to create a product together under the retailer’s brand. The retailer — possibly Target or Walmart, but not Amazon — will sell the product in its stores and BuzzFeed will promote it online with stories and videos. Kaufman didn’t provide details, but said the partnership will become public “in a couple of weeks.”

“Because the product was created with the editorial mindset and the data of BuzzFeed, we have a high degree of confidence that the promotion is going to work a lot more effectively than a traditional ad would for an item,” he said.

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