The law of platforms puts boundaries on appropriate interaction between Facebook (a means for content distribution) and Buzzfeed (a content manufacturer). But, somehow, the two tech companies keep getting caught in an unholy alliance, including a little love from Facebook's $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition.
It's like watching Cersei and Jaime Lannister, the incestuous siblings in Game of Thrones. The rest of us are Ned Stark, left with the suspicion that something's not quite right in King's Landing.
According to Re/Code, late last year WhatsApp "quietly launched" a little button that lets users share content on the messaging app. WhatsApp, which has been holding "informal talks" with Facebook for two years, then picked Buzzfeed as one of the lucky beta testers:
In fact, BuzzFeed is already seeing more shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter on iOS, the company told Re/code.
"Every time we looked at WhatsApp's numbers, it blew us away," said BuzzFeed president Jon Steinberg. "We knew last April this was a huge social network and have become increasingly obsessed with it."
With Facebook's ambitious plans to grow WhatsApp to a billion users, Buzzfeed can expect more action where that came from.
It's long been reported that part of Buzzfeed's "secret formula for getting posts to explode across the web" relies on buying Facebook ads, should a sponsor's content look a little under-viral. (It's certainly not the only company to pay Facebook for a little play.)
But the two were also found entangled when Facebook tweaked its NewsFeed algorithm, sending hordes of traffic to certain publishers. Even the sanitized version of a recent Business Insider article paints an unseemly picture:
Buzzfeed's business model is to create advertorials on Buzzfeed.com and then get traffic to these advertorials by buying Facebook ads.
If that's the reason, then the message Facebook is sending isn't so much that it wants "high quality" content for its News Feed. It's that if you are a media company, and you depend on Facebook for your traffic, you better make sure Facebook is benefiting from your existence.
To contact the author of this post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.