Ze Frank, an early video mastermind at viral publisher BuzzFeed, has departed the digital media giant.
Frank, who transitioned into the role of head and research and development last year after the disbandment of the BuzzFeed Entertainment Group — over which he previously presided — is exiting his everyday role at the company, but will stay on as an adviser, per The Hollywood Reporter . The Reporter notes that Frank has been contemplating next steps for some time.
In the last year, he has also started to post more regularly on his YouTube channel — which counts 2.4 million subscribers — with a series called True Facts that takes a comical look at unusual animals. Since last April, he has uploaded a total of eight videos (see below) — two in the past month — each of which has surpassed 1 million views.
“BuzzFeed wouldn’t be BuzzFeed without Ze’s contributions,” CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in a memo to staffers on Friday, noting that Frank had decided to “move on to new challenges beyond BuzzFeed.” In the memo, Peretti effused that “shards of [Frank’s] brilliance have permeated the entire company and inspired so many of us to do better work.” Of Frank’s knack for viral content, Peretti also said that he had taught the BuzzFeed team “how to work backwards from insights about human behavior to help our audience scratch the itch they didn’t even know they had.”
BuzzFeed is in the midst of a reckoning of sorts amid industry-wide challenges in digital media. In January, the company laid off around 15% of its staff and underwent a reorganization that saw two of the initiatives that Frank oversaw — the Creator Program and BuzzFeed’s animation-focused Media Labs — moved away from his dominion. BuzzFeed’s non-studio video efforts, such as its viral recipe brand Tasty, were also moved away from Frank’s control to be overseen by BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen, according to the Reporter.
Frank started out as a viral content creator himself, and joined BuzzFeed after it acquired his company, Ze Frank Games, in 2012. That year, he launched the company’s video business in Los Angeles. In 2014, he oversaw the establishment of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures — which sought to churn out both short clips and feature films alike. In 2016, Frank was named president of BuzzFeed Entertainment Group, as the company bifurcated into two divisions: entertainment and news.
In 2018, Frank was named chief research and development officer, where he most recently oversaw: a 12-person team experimenting with new formats and platforms; the Creators Program, an internal talent development initiative; and Media Labs — which developed animated projects like Good Advice Cupcake and Weird Helga.