Jonah Peretti said he wants BuzzFeed to be like a Paris café: People can read novels and then reach over to pet the puppy under the table next to them.
For Peretti, CEO and founder of BuzzFeed, animals and serious reading provide a range of experience that he wants to mirror in his website’s content.
BuzzFeed is a website that mixes political and breaking news with entertainment articles such as animals looking disappointed or carrots hugging.
Peretti held a panel at South By Southwest called The Big Power Shift in Media. He discussed his new and increasingly successful social-media content model, advertising shifts and the future of media advertising.
The first point Peretti made was to “learn from the Mormons.” He used Mormons as an example of people who not only practice their religion but are committed to spreading it. BuzzFeed treats news the same way. He said people don’t spend enough time spreading an idea after coming up with it.
“It’s not enough to practice your religion,” Peretti said. “You should be spending half your time spreading it.”
BuzzFeed uses viral optimization equations to keep track of how things spread in order to promote, learn from and create more of what is successful.
His second point was the BuzzFeed team understands its platform. He said his company is mindful of the way readers go to Google for information and Facebook to connect with friends.
Peretti said Facebook friends are increasingly using their connectivity to share more than what they ate for breakfast. He said they’re sharing memes, photos and articles both serious and funny.
BuzzFeed’s big break was a picture-article of basset hounds running that went viral using social media. BuzzFeed came out with another article shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting of the “26 moments that restored our faith in humanity.” The article has more than 5.4 million views.
However, the BuzzFeed team wants to be able to provide all the types of media people are looking to spread, including serious journalism. BuzzFeed hired Ben Smith, formerly of Politico, to be their editor-in-chief. Smith began putting together a team of journalists who could provide serious news and an extra dimension to the BuzzFeed experience.
Peretti’s third point was the way social content is coming to advertising.
Peretti said his team is working with brands to create advertisements that would be interesting to a reader instead of an interruption. All of BuzzFeed’s revenue comes from social-content marketing.
“Get ready for it,” Peretti said. “We’re working with top brands to make advertising useful and interesting instead of shoving it to the side.”
His fourth point was the idea of a Paris café. Peretti said it’s important to provide a range of experience so everyone can find something they like, whether that be articles of animals or an analysis of gun-control debate in Pennsylvania. Peretti argues both ends of the spectrum enhance each other.
His last takeaway was social media and going viral are a way of thinking. Peretti preached the importance of emotional intelligence in creating and spreading content.
The idea behind successful social media is being human, Peretti said. This is one of the reasons for all of the articles of running basset hounds and kittens listening to the sounds of goats.
“Animals are really about being human,” Peretti said. “And when people make fun of me for having so many animals on BuzzFeed, I ask if they’re a serial killer or android, because it’s got to be one or the other.”