Buzzfeed raises $50 million for expansion, motion picture division

Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed speaks onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on April 29, 2013 in New York City.

Aug 11 ( - Buzzfeed, the online news site that built a massive following off of news lists and cat videos, has raised $50 million for expansion that may include making movies, according to media reports on Sunday.

The capital was contributed by the leading Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz and The New York Times reported that the investment values the company at about $850 million. 

The site plans to officially announce the new capital raise on Monday.

According to the Times, the cash infusion will be used to introduce new content sections, creating an in-house incubator for new technology and put more resources toward BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, its Los Angeles-based video arm. Wrote the Times: 

“BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which is led by Ze Frank, a web video pioneer, aims to produce new videos — from six-second clips made for social media to more traditional 22-minute shows — at a rapid-fire pace. Initially, his team will focus on independent distribution, hosting video content on, YouTube or other digital platforms. But BuzzFeed Motion Pictures could also look to produce feature-length films or shows, working in conjunction with traditional Hollywood studios.”

Chris Dixon, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, who will join BuzzFeed's board, said: “We think of BuzzFeed as more of a technology company. They embrace Internet culture. Everything is first optimized for mobile and social channels.”

Buzzfeed started in 2006 as a kind of media lab experiment in viral content, focusing on its now-famous “listicles” (Twitter wags on Sunday night had already parodied the Buzzfeed news with tweets like: “17 Pugs With An Opinion on the BuzzFeed Valuation”) and cute cat videos that were highly shareable.

As the site has grown to a stunning 150 million monthly users, Buzzfeed has hired more traditional journalists and tried claimed the mantle of higher-quality content, with mixed success. A senior editor was fired this summer for rampant plagiarism, underlining the difficulty in marrying tech-driven success with the hard-core values of traditional journalism. 

Much of Buzzfeed's traffic comes from social media, and most of its revenue – now reported to be in the triple digit millions of dollars – comes from creating branded content, in other words custom video and list-style advertising content for brands that looks similar to its own editorial content.

The Walt Disney Co. was in negotiations earlier this year to acquire the media outlet famous for providing all of those lists about things you never knew you cared about, as well as serious, in-depth journalism. Apparently a $1 billion price tag was the main reason talks fell through.