Austin – Jonah Peretti says the explosive growth of his BuzzFeed platform owes to capitalizing on what he calls the “Bored at Work” Network. BuzzFeed has 40 million unique visitors a month, so the graduate of MIT’s famed Media Lab has substantial credibility on the subject of growth.
The BuzzFeed CEO & Founder told a SXSW audience here that more people around the world are getting news content from each other at work than from all the traditional television networks combined. Of course, as the driving force behind a platform made famous by photos of cute basset hounds and other Ed-Murrow-is-turning-in-his-grave nonsense, Peretti’s definition of news could be called flexible. Still, he is unequivocally correct in asserting that BuzzFeed and similar digital platforms have forever changed the way we view journalism. Thus the title of his session, “The Big Power Shift in Media.”
Peretti has his sights set on the “Bored in Line” Network, which is now relevant because of the growing sophistication of mobile devices. “Social and mobile have merged,” he told the gathering, “and mobile no longer stops things because somebody says, ‘I can’t do that now because I’m on my Blackberry.’” Indeed, he says that mobile comprises 40 percent of BuzzzFeed traffic.
He is guiding BuzzFeed’s evolution from what David Letterman calls “stupid pet tricks” to something far more substantive – and complex. BuzzzFeed has hired serious political journalists and is breaking hard news. He says his organization was the first to break news of President Obama’s secret trip to Afghanistan in 2012, if you remember that controversy. Indeed, BuzzFeed now has an approved White House correspondent traveling with the “Inside the Beltway” crowd.
Peretti remains unabashedly committed to delivering the fun stuff, too. And you know what, he should. He used a Paris Café analog to make his case, and it worked for me. “Publishing is a Paris Café today where you can read Sartre, check out business news in Le Monde, flirt, and pet the dog under the table.” His point, though a bit overripe, was that a general news and feature platform today needs to appeal to all aspects of life and living. Hey, as I thought about it, haven’t the world’s great newspapers long earned Pulitzer Prizes for serious journalism while trafficking in gossip, astrology, comic strips and photos of babies and pets? “Be human,” Peretti said. Ok, I’m sold.