BuzzFeed to Infiltrate HBS in New Business Case Study: MBA News |

BuzzFeed to Infiltrate HBS in New Business Case Study: MBA News

By Tim Dhoul

Updated August 26, 2014 Updated August 26, 2014

BuzzFeed, the website renowned for entertainment-orientated lists and quizzes that consistently go viral, will now get the chance to infiltrate the thinking of MBA students at Harvard Business School (HBS) in the form of a new business case study.

Strategy professor at HBS, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, was attracted to the website’s strategic approach after discovering that its high yield from advertising rates greatly exceeded industry standards.

Oberholzer-Gee’s resultant business case study ‘BuzzFeed – The Promise of Native Advertising’ looks set to enrich the portfolio of teaching material at the HBS professor’s disposal in his popular second-year MBA elective, Strategies Beyond the Market.

The business case study considers the astonishing success of BuzzFeed from its origins as a news aggregator to today’s global media company, which now combines its reams of lists with original reporting into traditional areas, including politics and business.

‘Classic’ disruptive innovation example

Oberholzer-Gee’s business case study affirms that BuzzFeed’s focus on readers sharing content via social media lies behind its growing influence – increasing its distribution and its value in the minds of advertisers.

 “The reason it's so successful is the moment we start to share things, the sharing itself is some sort of endorsement that's hard to replicate with other forms of advertising,” the HBS professor told Forbes.

Indeed, the strategies pursued by its founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti – both with BuzzFeed and in his previous work as a co-founder of The Huffington Post – have been held up as ‘classic’ examples of disruptive innovation by HBS’s Clayton M. Christensen.

In explaining his reasoning, Christensen argues that both BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post succeeded, as his disruptive innovation theory holds, in engaging new audiences at the low end of the market before climbing up the value stakes and finally, moving in on territory previously held by traditional stalwarts of the industry.

BuzzFeed’s value in today’s market is such that it was recently the subject of takeover talk from The Walt Disney Co. – with reports suggesting that a deal disintegrated because BuzzFeed wouldn’t consider anything south of 10 digits.

Meanwhile, Jonah Peretti’s company continues to expand, forecasting revenue of US$120 million this year, doubling what it brought in over 2013, according to Bloomberg.

As Christensen wrote in Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism; “They may have started by collecting cute pictures of cats but they are now expanding into politics, transforming from aggregators into generators of original content, and even, in the case of The Huffington Post, winning a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.”

That’s the kind of disruptive innovation model that any MBA with an interest in media would do well to sit up and take notice of.

This article was originally published in July 2014 . It was last updated in August 2014

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