BuzzFeed is going IRL by staging its first live event — a variety-style show in New York it’s billing as an in-real-life version of scrolling through your social feed.
Headlining BuzzFeed’s Internet Live is a musical performance by Lil Nas X, whose chart-topping song “Old Town Road” has become a viral phenomenon, along with an appearance by JoJo Siwa, the 16-year-old YouTube and Nickelodeon star. The program’s lineup includes other influencers and BuzzFeed personalities, including Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Deena Nicole Cortese and Angelina Pivarnick of MTV’s “Jersey Shore Family Vacation.”
However, BuzzFeed isn’t going to make money directly from its inaugural Internet Live: It’s not charging for tickets and doesn’t have any sponsorship deals for the event. The invitation-only show will take place Thursday, July 25, at New York City’s Webster Hall.
“We see this as an investment — we think this can become a significant business for BuzzFeed,” said CMO Ben Kaufman said.
Down the road, BuzzFeed hopes to produce ticketed events and generate revenue from brand integrations in live shows. “We haven’t really dipped our toe into experiential touchpoints yet, and we thought the best way to do that would be to bring alive the best of the internet,” Kaufman said.
For digital influencers, touring live shows have become bankable business extension. But it remains to be seen how big a draw BuzzFeed would be able to get for an IRL agglomeration of internet influencers and memes — the prospect of the internet coming to life in front of your eyes isn’t everyone’s idea of an entertaining night out.
The move into live events for BuzzFeed comes as CEO Jonah Peretti has emphasized the need for the company to diversify revenue beyond advertising, coming after it laid off 15% of its workforce earlier in the year.
For the show at Webster Hall next week, BuzzFeed is issuing invites to talent partners, influencers, employees and some advertising clients. It expects about 500 attendees. The event (featuring an open bar) will run for about an hour, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. on July 25.
BuzzFeed isn’t planning to live-stream Internet Live. Rather, producers will edit the program down to a 20-30 minute video and distribute that across BuzzFeed channels on Aug. 4, along with breakout clips from the evening.
Internet Live will encompass live interviews, interactive games and musical performances, with segments reflecting what’s trending online as well as tributes to nostalgic memes.
In addition to Lil Nas X, JoJo Siwa and the “Jersey Shore” trio, BuzzFeed’s Internet Live is slated to include appearances by Donté Colley, the social-media star known for his dance videos; Daniel Lara and Josh Holzz, who popularized the “Damn Daniel” meme; 9-year-old Ava Ryan, who creates comedy sketches on her mother’s YouTube channel; Zoe Roth, aka “Disaster Girl”; teen climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor; broadway star Shoshana Bean; actor-comedian Jason Nash; BuzzFeed multiplayer gamer Kelsey Impicciche, and stand-up comedian and BuzzFeed producer Eric Tabach.
Internet Live will be executive produced by Alex Coletti and Frank Garritano of Show Shop, which produces the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (aired on HBO) and most recently produced the “Game of Thrones” farewell special hosted by Conan O’Brien. The event will be produced by Show Shop’s Gillian Appleby alongside BuzzFeed’s Ben Kaufman and Katie Notopoulos. The variety special will be written and curated by BuzzFeed writers, editors and producers.