Yesterday’s $50 million investment in Buzzfeed from Andreessen Horowitz suggests the future of news is about execution rather than innovation. To continue talking about “news innovation” at this point is just a distraction from just getting things done.
The brilliance of Buzzfeed is that they created and operate almost every aspect of their business. Investor Chris Dixon calls it a “full stack start-up” and has referred to Buzzfeed as such. Vertical integration has been Buzzfeed’s conscious strategy for at least three years, as founder Jonah Peretti detailed in a 2012 internal memo and then reiterated again in another staff memo in 2013.
Buzzfeed has created its own analytics, methods for tracking reader interest, ad units, CMS and editorial structure. Individually, little of what they have done is particularly innovative or even interesting–It is the fact that they’ve “built the whole enchilada” to quote Peretti, that makes Buzzfeed interesting.
There are a dozen examples of news organizations creating many of these individual components. Smaller organizations tend to stumble when it comes to obtaining the resources to really polish their creations. Larger organizations choke on getting their culture to adapt to the new technologies and their demands, or end up building kludges designed by committee.
Very little of what we’re seeing with Buzzfeed is actually new. The innovation is their ability to execute.
So much of the talk about news innovation is really just talking around the real problem: News organizations need to focus their energy on executing well.