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BuzzFeed is shutting down its traffic partner network ahead of a video push

BuzzFeed won’t be sharing its traffic with other websites as it has been.

The phenomenally successful viral content site, known for its listicles and cat videos (and some impressive reporting of late) sent members of its content referral network the following message Friday.

BuzzFeed has decided to wind down its existing partner network over the coming months. The partner network was an extremely valuable product for us and for partners but its place has changed as the industry has evolved and BuzzFeed has grown into a fully staffed, global news and entertainment organization over the last few years.

About 200 websites (including, briefly, Quartz) signed up to get traffic from BuzzFeed through its fre.sh website and headline modules on BuzzFeed itself, a program which has been active for about five years. The New Statesman had a good explanation for how the website worked. BuzzFeed would link to the websites of publishers that signed up, in exchange for being able to track information about traffic from those publishers. “BuzzFeed now knows how many of its readers also click around the Daily Mail, and how many of them get their ‘real’ news from the Guardian. All that data pays back back to the site’s native advertising model,” the Statesman wrote.

In theory, Buzzfeed could use this information to better target various demographics (and argue to advertisers it is reaching other, more prestigious publications audiences.) It is not clear what is happening to fre.sh, but the current agreements with publishers will end in June.

Now, a bit like Facebook, it sounds like BuzzFeed is shifting its focus to video, where it will soon be launching a referral network. Here’s more of the email:

We are focused on BuzzFeed Video, and will be shifting the structure of the partner network to a select group of new partners, solely focused around video.

Buzzfeed surpassed Gawker Media in traffic in November, with 130 million unique visitors monthly at last count. Disney was in talks to acquire the business earlier this year, according to Fortune, but with Buzzfeed said to be asking for more than $1 billion, the talks fell apart. This month, COO Jon Steinberg announced he would depart the company.

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