Variety published a profile of CNN president Jeff Zucker. The piece praises Zucker for the improvement of CNN’s TV ratings but also credits him with a big investment in the organization’s online future. It’s at this point that Zucker disses some of his online rivals:
TV performance is just part of the company’s success story. Its digital unit is also formidable, made stronger by the inceased investment in journalists and technology. According to comScore, CNN Digital landed 116 million unique visitors in June, topping all other news outlets, including Yahoo News (100 million), BuzzFeed (78 million), and The New York Times (75 million). That same month, CNN saw 292 million video starts, more than any other news site. “When Jeff talks about CNN, he doesn’t talk about it as a television network,” says Andrew Morse, the general manager of CNN Digital Worldwide. “He talks about it as a 21st-century media company.”
The online news landscape is crowded. But Zucker doesn’t view the new players in the field as competitors. “I don’t think Vice and BuzzFeed are legitimate news organizations,” he says. What would he call them? “They are,” he says with a mischievous grin, “native advertising shops. We crush both of them. They are not even in our same class.”
Native advertising is the type of advertising Buzzfeed uses. Unlike display ads, i.e. the banner you might see at the top of a website, native advertising usually involves content or video that fits into the style of the surrounding content. It is sometimes called sponsored content. You can see Buzzfeed’s pitch to advertisers on this page. You can see one campaign the site created for Taco Bell on this page. Buzzfeed has admitted to deleting content that offended one of their advertisers in a few instances but the company has since issued guidelines which they claim will prevent this in the future.
Vice and Buzzfeed are producing original news content. It may not compare to the clicks Buzzfeed gets from a picture of a blue and black dress, but then CNN has put out some pretty silly content as well. Remember this incident during the search for that missing plane?