The truth about media — and tech, and any other field that chases innovation to stave off obsolescence — is that the disrupter always becomes the disrupted. With BuzzFeed navigating uncertain financial waters, Mia Sato digs into the company’s place in the internet-aggregation industrial complex.
But outlets that depend on third-party platforms for traffic live and die according to platforms’ whims. A Facebook algorithm change aimed at reducing “clickbait” around 2014, for example, hit viral content mills the hardest. Upworthy, which at one point was called “the fastest growing media site of all time,” went from 87 million monthly visitors to 49 million in a matter of months in late 2013 — more than 40 percent of traffic wiped out. Smaller outfits that were almost entirely dependent on Facebook traffic — like Distractify or LittleThings — have since shuttered completely or disappeared from the general consciousness.