Meta Has a TikTok Problem, and It’s Hiring BuzzFeed to Help

Meta contracting BuzzFeed could be a signal its own initiatives to attract creators and compete with TikTok aren't working.

TikTok and Facebook logos displayed on phone screens and a laptop keyboard
Meta has a TikTok problem. NurPhoto via Getty Images

Meta (META) is contracting BuzzFeed (BZFD) to help with its TikTok problem. In a deal worth $10 million, the journalism and entertainment site will generate content for Meta’s platforms and train creators to build followings, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 25.

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TikTok’s popularity in the U.S. has eaten away at Meta’s market share in the social media space. Last year, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted he missed the short-form video trend that led to TikTok’s success. Now Meta, which owns Facebook (META) and Instagram, is seemingly playing catch-up. It has spent the last year building out its monetization tools to attract creators, many of whom use TikTok as their primary platform. It initiated creator funds, exclusive content options and greater ad revenue percentages than its competitors, among other incentives to attract influencers. But contracting BuzzFeed might signal its own initiatives aren’t working.

“BuzzFeed dominated Facebook back in the day,” said David Schloss, who runs an advertising agency specializing in Meta’s platforms. In March 2013,  BuzzFeed had more than double the top articles on Facebook than its nearest competitor, according to a report. The deal between Meta and the publisher feels like Meta is working with “the original creators,” he said.

A deal that’s “a bit embarrassing” for Meta

The announcement between the companies was surprising, and the move feels like it’s happening a year later than it needed to, said Schloss. Meta might have wanted to try their own initiatives first, but “it feels like they’re getting anxious and want results faster,” he said. Having to contract outside its own organization “is a bit embarrassing, though they won’t admit it.” Meta declined to comment.

Meta launched its TikTok competitor Reels on Instagram and Facebook in 2020. But users posting on Reels are, for the most part, reposting content that first appeared on TikTok rather than creating original videos on the sites, Schloss said. This means TikTok’s branding still sometimes appears in the videos, which is free advertising for its rival. Meta’s various creator incentives show it wants users creating unique media on its platforms, he said.

Meta’s stock is down 50 percent from this time last year. The company’s revenue in the last three months is expected to be between $30 billion and $32.5 billion, so the $10 million it is paying BuzzFeed is a drop in the bucket. It laid off 11,000 employees, or 13 percent of its workforce, in November.

Meta Has a TikTok Problem, and It’s Hiring BuzzFeed to Help