CEO, Buz­zfeed

Fast Company - - Contents -

Co­founder and CEO, Buz­zfeed


As a co­founder of both The Huff­in­g­ton Post and Buz­zfeed, Jonah Peretti has spent more than a decade ex­per­i­ment­ing with con­tent, so­cial am­pli­fi­ca­tion, and data analysis. Here’s what he’s learned about build­ing a di­verse, de­voted au­di­ence.

“I went to Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, pub­lic schools un­til eighth grade. It was nor­mal to have a di­verse group of friends. Ev­ery­one made fun of ev­ery­one else. It wasn’t a PC en­vi­ron­ment by any means. But there was a fa­mil­iar­ity and a mu­tual re­spect that makes a huge dif­fer­ence in terms of how you see the world. Art can fill this role. If you can get peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence au­then­tic char­ac­ters in a fic­tional uni­verse that they would never meet in real life, that will change their view of black peo­ple, of im­mi­grants, of peo­ple with dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences.

“The in­ter­net opened up this pos­si­bil­ity, to cre­ate con­tent for a wider range of peo­ple. Early on at Buz­zfeed, we would make lists, like, ‘Signs you were raised by Asian im­mi­grant par­ents.’ A sin­gle-digit per­cent­age of the [U.S.] pop­u­la­tion is Asian. This is a niche group—that’s how the mass me­dia would think about it. But [the post] would get 6 or 8 mil­lion views and be a huge hit. Then we would look at the data and see that half of the peo­ple con­sum­ing it weren’t Asian. [Read­ers] were also shar­ing it with peo­ple who have dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences to say, ‘This is how I grew up.’

“Peo­ple think we just look at the to­tal num­bers and say, ‘This reached as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.’ But it’s more like, Where is the sig­nal that we ac­tu­ally care about? With food me­dia, are peo­ple cook­ing the food? Are peo­ple ac­tu­ally do­ing the DIY project? My sis­ter’s a comic. Some­times she’ll tell a joke and peo­ple will laugh at a dif­fer­ent part than she ex­pected, and [she’s] like, ‘Why?’ Hav­ing feed­back helps you see if you are con­nect­ing in a way that you want.”

Pho­to­graph by Her­ring & Her­ring

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