4 things we learned about BuzzFeed from CEO Jonah Peretti’s memo to staff

If you’ve spent any time on the Internet during the last few years, it would be almost impossible to avoid the content juggernaut by the name of BuzzFeed. Its influence over what we share and the way we share it has seeped into all aspects of online culture. And the numbers prove it: in a new memo to the company founder and CEO Jonah Perretti declares that “Today we are a global, cross-platform, tech-driven network generating FIVE BILLION monthly content views from our site, multiple BuzzFeed apps, and over 30 other platforms including Facebook video, YouTube, and Snapchat.” Those are impressive numbers by anyone’s standards, and even more so when he notes that three years ago, the company was generating 100 million monthly content views. That’s a massive leap.

The memo from Peretti to the over 700 staff employed by BuzzFeed around the world is an interesting look into the culture of the company that recently received $50 million in venture capital funding from Andreessen Horowitz.

Here are four things we learned from the memo.

BuzzFeed is learning constantly from its evolving global audience
Due to its incredible international reach, the fact that it creates content in so many formats, and that it creates news, entertainment and lifestyle content – BuzzFeed has an unprecedented ability to really understand all aspects of what its users enjoy. “We can learn more about our audience than a company narrowly focused on a single-content vertical,” explains Peretti.

A company that is so deeply connected to its audience and has so much data about what they like and don’t like is in prime position to make better and better content to serve that audience.

Expect the numbers to keep on growing.

BuzzFeed is mastering the art of moving content across platforms and cultures

Peretti shared a number of stories that show how they are able to find great content that starts in one place, before being adapted and finding new audiences. Good content has no boundaries.

Stories that start in one place, get translated, go viral and find new audiences somewhere else all the time. “We see a news story like ‘artists reacting to the Syrian crisis‘ originally by a reporter in our London office or a ‘first-person essay‘ about taking in Syrian refugees originally written in German from one of our Berlin reporters viewed over 3 million times because of translations to five languages.” The company is investing heavily in an adaptation desk and new tools for translating and turning content global, which will serve to make content more universal and bring people closer together around the world.

BuzzFeed wants to be more than just business; it wants to be a force for good

While the business motivation for making such a global platform is pretty clear, there are deeper forces at work for the company. “We aren’t building BuzzFeed to get as many impressions or clicks or shares or time spent as we can,” he explains. “We are building BuzzFeed to have a positive impact on people’s actual lives. The company is enormously proud of empowering stories about LGBTI issues, body image, healthy-eating and generally promoting a better, more sustainable and equitable world. Another great quote from Peretti sums up this philosophy: “we love when people come to BuzzFeed for entertainment but leave informed about issues and events that matter.”

5 billion views are worth more than 18 billion impressions

Technically, this point is not from the Peretti memo, but rather a follow-up email to tech blog Re/Code. A few months back BuzzFeed reported their stuff was seen 18 billion times a month. A journalist asked for clarification on the drop to 5-billion views. He replied thus: “The 18B was the total feed impressions on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Most of these were links pointing to stories on BuzzFeed.com that users didn’t click, e.g. scrolling past a BuzzFeed link in your Twitter timeline and not clicking it.” This fact made the team question why only 5% of their links were being clicked and forced a change of strategy where “actual content is published into social feeds”.

The memo is a great insight into the content juggernaut and the culture that it wants to create, both inside the company and across the web. With a winning mix of serious journalism and light-hearted viral entertainment, it seems a safe bet that BuzzFeed will keep on winning long into the future of the web. Read the whole memo here.



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