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Jan. 19, 2016, 11:26 a.m.
Business Models
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   January 19, 2016

BuzzFeed on Tuesday launched BuzzFeed Japan, the company’s eleventh international edition.

Unlike its previous expansions, which are fully owned by BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed Japan is a joint partnership with Yahoo Japan. BuzzFeed owns a 51 percent stake and Yahoo Japan has a 49 percent stake in the venture, The Financial Times reported last August when the new site was announced.

Yahoo Japan is one of the largest sites in Japan. It says it reaches 88 percent of all Japanese Internet users and generates 56 billion page views per month.

In a post last summer, BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman outlined how the partnership would work, explaining that BuzzFeed hopes to capitalize on Yahoo Japan’s understanding of its home market:

[W]e’ll provide the joint venture with BuzzFeed’s brand, proprietary technology platform, and philosophy and process for developing editorial content and native advertising. Yahoo! Japan will advise the joint venture on cultural matters, drive traffic to BuzzFeed Japan, and own the sales channel to bring BuzzFeed Japan to market.

What’s different about launching in Japan? Social sharing is the key to BuzzFeed’s growth and business model, and users in Japan have different social media habits than we’re used to in the U.S or Western Europe. Facebook and Twitter users in Tokyo tend to engage more on the platforms outside of work hours, according to a 2015 study from Klout. Compare that to New York, San Francisco, Paris, and London where responses on the social networks peak during the work day.

BuzzFeed launched its first international site in the United Kingdom in 2013, and has continued to expand rapidly to other markets around the globe.

The company had initially planned to launch the Japanese site in 2014, but in an interview last spring, Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s VP for International, told me that it took some time for the company to figure out its best strategy for Japan:

I think that we’ve come up against two challenges. One is an internal one. BuzzFeed is growing very quickly, and to do these international launches is actually a very resource intensive process. We’ve spent a good portion of the first part of this year staffing up internally and getting a structure in place within BuzzFeed that we can scale and do these things in a more nimble and quicker way.

But there are some definite challenges in different markets. When we wanted to go to Germany, it was a little bit easier for us. I had worked there previously and had some connections. There are a lot of people at BuzzFeed who similarly knew the market in France and the U.K. Japan was one that we had very little internal knowledge about it, and it’s just taken us a longer time to feel like we have a good understanding of what the right market strategy is for us there.

BuzzFeed has typically followed the same model when launching internationally. It’s started with a small team producing the viral stories that BuzzFeed is famous for before expanding into more traditional news coverage. In the U.K., for example, BuzzFeed launched with just three staffers. Today it has a full newsroom in Britain, and on Sunday it published the results of a year-long investigation into match-fixing in tennis with the BBC.

BuzzFeed Japan, however, is covering news from the start. On Tuesday it published a Japanese translation of its editorial guidelines, which executive editor Shani O. Hilton wrote last year. The lead story and top trending post on the site, as of Tuesday evening, was a report on the state Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant nearly five years after the disaster there.


It’s also translated stories, such as BuzzFeed’s match-fixing investigation, into Japanese.

“The idea is that we want international offices to start being not just satellite offices, but being centers of gravity themselves,” BuzzFeed head of European growth Luke Lewis, who was BuzzFeed U.K.’s first editor, told me in London last spring.

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