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Can a site that documents viral content help a portal go viral? That's what AOL is hoping with its new Buzzfeed partnership.
In addition to links sent to the web's most popular content, Buzzfeed (which bills itself as "the viral web in real time") will now be linking to AOL stories on its homepage. That's not a bad idea.
BuzzFeed is a site that uses paid staff and users to generate a short list of newsworthy items every day. And it sounds like Buzzfeed is set to expand. Founder Jonah Peretti raised $8 million in Series B last May. And venture capitalist Jon Steinberg just left Polaris Ventures to become Buzzfeed's new president. He explains the AOL partnership like this:
"Now, whenever you're on a Buzzfeed viral image, video, link, or list page, you'll see the most viral and related content from Aol. Effectively, due to the depth and wealth of Aol content, this allows you to "read more" on any viral topic that interests you've.
We specifically identified and reserved a slot for Aol, as you can see below in the live version of a match involving UFOs."
Sticking dead weight AOL content into Buzzfeed's offerings could upset users. But the company is being smart about it. Buzzfeed will highlight related AOL articles and videos when relevant, but AOL links will appear at the very bottom of the page, meaning that few readers will mistake the links for truly viral content. Furthermore, like Twitter's new Promoted Tweets, AOL content has to have some virality to rank on Buzzfeed's homepage.
Considering how much traffic AOL generates, this shouldn't be a problem. However, it's a smart little trick to get AOL on the radar of new users. AOL owes much of its traffic to its slowly dying subscription business. As users flee from there, AOL is increasingly trying to generate new viewers. Simply showing content from AOL brands in places where viewers devour content is a good idea for the company. And being associated with Buzzfeed, even if it's a pay to play deal, could be very good for business.
And for Buzzfeed, it's a great way to ring money out of AOL, with relatively little effort or threat to the site's own readership.