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The big power shift in media: BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti [SXSW]

As the Interactive portion of SXSW began winding down, BuzzFeed’s CEO and founder Jonah Peretti shared a few of the insights that he and his puppy-and-kitten-loving team have discovered work well for their media site, BuzzFeed, and in fact, indicate the kind of shift that is taking place.

BuzzFeed, with its lists and cute pictures of bunnies, taps into what Peretti calls the bored-at-work network (hundreds of people stuck at work all day behind a computer looking for distraction, which has created a network bigger than most broadcasters), and combines it with the bored-in-line network (those who check their phones while waiting for something). He says BuzzFeed focuses on creating content but also how to get that content shared: “You need to spend 50% of your time on the idea and 50% on how you spread it. Not 95% and then only a tiny portion on how to spread the idea.” At BuzzFeed, they “starve” ideas which aren’t giving good return on promotion and “feed” those that do.

As a result, the BuzzFeed team abide by a few rules, which Peretti believes are valuable to follow as this shift in media continues:

Learn from the Mormons

Mormons are intent on spreading their religion, he says, and in this way, they track progress diligently and this underscores his point of having an idea and a way to spread it.

Understand your platform

“What spreads depends on the platform. We behave wildly differently depending on context. The Google world view is about connecting people with information. It’s very solitary but very useful,” he said. Whereas the Facebook world view is about connecting people with their friends and letting them express themselves. Peretti gave the example of pics of Basset Hounds making faces while running as an example of something that wouldn’t ordinarily be typed into Google, but those pictures work well for social sharing online.

The big shift to social content is coming to advertising

Peretti sees the need to be ready for this shift towards social advertising and away from traditional advertising. “Get ready for it,” he advises, “We work with brands to make advertising useful and interesting instead of shoving it the side (as newspapers usually do).”

People love the Paris cafe

This is Peretti’s go-to concept when asked about the mix of viral cat pics and other fluffy animals that feature on BuzzFeed alongside the serious news journalism it started to employ during the US elections. “Stay close to what makes us human,” he says. “Just because you go to a Paris cafe with a book on philosophy and the newspaper, doesn’t mean you are dumb if you turn around to pat the dog at the table next to you.” It’s this range of interests and emotions, he believes, that makes us humans, and content needs to reflect that.

Social is a way of thinking

Peretti believes there are no tricks to getting content to spread, because, again, it’s all about just being human. “When you go out and laugh with your friends, you don’t remember the jokes, but only that you laughed,” Similarly, he says, when you share content with friends you are connecting with your friends online throughout the day. Peretti says it’s not about the informational value of each piece of content but about the waves of positive emotion they spread. This goes for serious stories too – such as BuzzFeed’s Powerful Images of 2011 post which was a viral hit for the site. People feel empathetic to causes and want to help, or at least try do their bit to spread the word.

Image: neoneuromancer (via Flickr)

Author | Nadia Neophytou: In New York

Nadia Neophytou: In New York
Nadia Neophytou is a New York based South African journalist most known for her work as the Entertainment Reporter for Eyewitness News, which is broadcast on Talk Radio 702, 567 Cape Talk, Highveld Stereo 94.7 and Kfm 94.5. She is now based in New York, as their US correspondent.... More
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  • Steve__S

    Yes, the canned response for features you don’t have. While I’d agree that the color of the phone is trivial, the other two features are indeed practical.
    I’m not sure how you feel Android copying such features would “steal” fans from Apple given that Apple already has these features.

  • pdq3

    “Huawei’s Mate S features another layered-touch system which was shown off at IFA 2015 just days before Apple’s launch.”

    Therefore, Apple copied Huawei.

    (see iPhone, LG Prada)

  • Steve__S

    Wow, some of you are pretty desperate, aren’t you? When does it ship? This was an early tech demo attempting to steal Apple’s thunder. Apple is first with a real shipping product. Not to mention that Apple has also integrated it in both hardware and software.

  • Your Mother

    1. Samsung had Air View in 2012 with the Galaxy S3 and Apple’s copy works the same way except you have to touch the screen.

    2. Galaxy phones don’t need front flash because we have superior front cameras. The S6 has 1.2f compared to the 6S 2.2f. The S6 also has 5mp–the iPhone 6 had only 1.2mp and the S6 has wide angle abilities to capture everyone in a selfie–not just the iDiot holding the phone.

    3. Rose Gold? really? who gives a FK.

    let’s talk about what the S6 has that iPhone fans don’t and won’t have for some time.

    Superior display
    Superior camera
    Support for 7.1 surround sound
    Bluetooth & NFC that works with ALL things.
    And an OS that’s flexibly, robust and highly customizable.

  • Your Mother

    Samsung did it first with the S3 back in 2012.

  • Your Mother

    3D touch is apple’s copy of Samsung’s air view.

    Front facing flash is not needed on the S6 because it has a 1.2f wide angle lens and its 5mp which apple just upgraded to after years of having less than 1mp.

    As for the color options! Really, a color??

  • Your Mother

    3D view is apple copying Samsung’s Air View.

    Front flash on the Galaxy S6 is not needed because it has a 1.2f which lets in more light than apple’s 2.2f the S6 also has a wide angle front camera and for the first time ever apple has a front camera that’s larger than 1mp.

  • Idon’t Know

    The author has no business wiring technical articles and look at all the android kiddies whining. They also don’t understand what these features are and a desperate to downplay them anyway.

  • Idon’t Know

    Awww so sad….nobody is buying Samsung’s junk and you know even less than the author about Apples products or even Samson’s since you fail to understand what either do or the differences.

  • Steve__S

    “3D touch is apple’s copy of Samsung’s air view.”

    Umm… no, it’s not. For starters, Samsung’s Air View is a copy of Apple’s Quick Look found in OS X that far predates Samsung’s implementation. Further, Air View, like Quick Look is only half of the equation. It allows you to do the “peek” at the data, but not the “pop” into the application if desired.

    “Front facing flash is not needed on the S6 because it has a 1.2f wide angle lens”

    It’s not “needed” on the iPhone either, but no matter how you spin it, having a front flash of sorts is a better option. Not to mention that the color of the flash it matched to get the correct exposure, etc. For that matter, the wider aperture on the S6 is effectively negated by the smaller photo receptors.

    “As for the color options! Really, a color??”

    Okay, on this one, I think we’ve found common ground.

  • Steve__S

    I’m not sure why you feel the need to post the same nonsense multiple times in the same thread. You are incorrect. See my response above.

  • Steve__S

    Really? Please explain how 3D touch works on the S3. I call BS on your response.

  • TTR

    Display. The human eye cannot detect more pixels than the Retina display shows.
    Camera. Nobody gives a fig about 2 extra pixels in their selfies.
    BT/NFC works the way it should. Always has.

    The ‘android’ OS is merely a ripoff of iOS. Ripoffs are never as good as the original. Samsung tacked on ‘TouchWiz’ (THE dumbest name in existence) to make ‘android’ usable, but it’s still clunky and immature next to iOS.

    Samsung is forced to play the ‘spec sheet game’ because they compete in a market crowded with wannabees. How is it working out for them? Not too well, predictably.
    Apple rakes in 92% of the world’s mobile profits leaving the scraps to the rest.

    iOS has the best apps and gets them first. This happens for one main reason.
    Developers know that ‘android’ setters are less willing to pay for apps. They’re nearly all PC users who are used to pirating (stealing) their content. But iOS users have jobs and actually don’t mind paying for things.

    Also, iOS is more secure while ‘android’ is riddled with viruses, malware, adware and spyware.
    These two things mean that fandroids drones tend to develop a massive inferiority complex. Now that the 6S raises the bar even further out of their reach I predict their bleating will get more and more shrill.

  • Rensie

    Who invented the smart phone, figured out how things work. How to scroll , zoom multi touch, the very things you take for granted today? The app store, apps. Who spend their money on R&D and had no holidays and time away from family while others just waited open and copied? And who gets the gratitude today? If it wasn’t for Apple you would not have seen any of the current phones you are using because we all know what wonderful phones you made before Apple came around. So count your blessings and say thank you and shut up.

  • Moreck

    A couple of points: The iPad Pro is clearly something you don’t understand. How is copying the Surface, exactly? iPads had keyboards years before the Surface debuted. Comparing the Apple Pencil to any other existing stylus is foolish. No other stylus features angle detection and virtually no lag. It’s hands-down the best stylus in existence by a wide margin.
    Also, the new Macbook (and its force touch feature) has received consistenty excellent reviews.

    As a side note, I love all the Android fans trying to play down 3D Touch, calling it a long press and other such nonsense. Bless their little hearts.

  • Sebastian Bartlett

    In the phablet game Apple is actually a newer to it than Huawei and it really shows in some area. This is clearly a biased article and the iphone 6S plus would be lucky to crack the top 10 in phablets if it wasn’t a biased reviewer.

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