Popular U.S. website BuzzFeed setting up shop in Canada

TORONTO – Popular U.S. website BuzzFeed created some buzz of its own north of the border Thursday when it announced plans to expand its presence in Canada.

The popular purveyor of offbeat lists and quizzes that have become mainstays on social media networks announced that they’ll be establishing an office in Toronto some time this spring.

But a spokeswoman for the social media and entertainment website declined to answer questions about the exact timing of the expansion, the number of jobs that would be created or the strategy for carving a niche in the Canadian market.

There will be an editorial team based in Canada. I will keep you posted when we have more updates,” Alice Suh said in an email.

Founded in 2006, BuzzFeed has steadily created a unique place in the evolving online media landscape. The ensuing nine years have seen it set up offices on three continents, establish operations in countries ranging from Germany to India, and amass a worldwide audience that the company estimates at about 200 million people.

It’s not the first U.S.-based media outlet to seek a home north of the border. Companies such as Huffington Post, Vice and Yahoo have all had Canadian ventures up and running for several years.

Industry watchers, however, suspect BuzzFeed will have an unprecedented impact on the country’s media landscape.

Gavin Adamson, assistant professor of journalism at Ryerson University, said BuzzFeed offers its audience a different reading experience than most of its competitors.

Most of BuzzFeed’s content is written in succinct, sardonic chunks that can be both easy and amusing to read, Adamson said, adding the approach has been particularly successful with younger Internet users.

More recently, he said, BuzzFeed has been diversifying its content with forays into more traditional journalism. The website has established a section dedicated to more long-form stories, undertaken coverage of the global Ebola outbreak and landed exclusive interviews with the likes of U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Adamson said this combination makes BuzzFeed an ideal channel through which Canada’s newsmakers can reach a hard to engage audience of people in their teens, 20’s and 30’s.

“They have developed such a huge readership that someone like Obama recognizes that he’s speaking to a certain demographic,” Adamson said in a telephone interview. “He’s not going to ignore them because he knows that he will be seen. And I think that goes for anyone that’s trying to get a communication message out there.”

BuzzFeed’s evolving mix of irreverent and serious content may help it stake out a place somewhere between the news aggregation model adopted by the Huffington Post and the more investigative bent so prominent at Vice, Adamson said, adding that the company will be pursuing a very different audience than those that favour traditional media providers like the Globe and Mail.

Adamson said BuzzFeed has a history of aggressive advertising strategies which associate articles with specific, relevant sponsors.

He anticipates such an approach could also find success in Canada, speculating that the company might attach lists of top 10 Canadian beach vacation spots to ads for domestic beer.

BuzzFeed has dabbled in Canadiana before. Besides recent coverage of the video of Parliament Hill shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the site has posted more whimsical offerings such as “23 reasons you belong at Green Gables” and “13 things Canadians want Americans to know about Tim Horton’s.”