The Key to BuzzFeed’s Success: A Conversation with Jonah Peretti



Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.

All sessions from #SMWONE, our four-week virtual conference program, are now available on-demand.

This post was written by Brittany VanBibber

If we could all get into the minds of BuzzFeed, we’d probably all consider ourselves better off. Well, today at the ENGAGE stage was the closest we’ll ever get. Social Media Week’s founder and Executive Director, Toby Daniels, sat down with CEO and Founder of BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti.

The fireside chat kicked off with some background on how Peretti became involved with the idea of sharing and virality. “I got interested in this stuff accidentally,” he said.

This accidental sharing fame came from Peretti’s attempt to order a Nike shoe, with the word, “sweatshop,” printed on the side. Nike wouldn’t let him place the order, and Peretti somewhat battled it out with them via email. That email became his claim to viral fame, and was getting forwarded to people he had never even met. Now he’s running one of the most visited websites in the world.

“In a little more than a decade, the whole media industry has been turned inside out, instead of being a weird, fringe thing,” Peretti said. “People share things that move their heart, not just their heads.” Peretti also revealed that one of his favorite BuzzFeed quizzes was the “What City Should You Live In” theme.

We caught snippets of the Q&A that Daniels had with Peretti. Check them out below:

Peretti on the role of technology in our lives: “I tend to be an optimist. When you see negative forms of technology you tend to see an antibody…the fact that we can be connected to so many ideas, and no matter where you live, can find people like you. I think it’s making growing up easier, for the better…in general, I’m pretty excited about trends in social and mobile.”

Peretti on success and failure: “The big thing is to maximize learning, not maximize traffic. Maximizing your understanding of the things that are important, and the things that matter. It becomes counterproductive to focus on short-term vanity metrics. If you focus on 3-5 years out, you care a lot more.”

Peretti on how BuzzFeed structures its editorial teams and content: “I think having smart, creative humans informed by great data is the best model…It’s a constant dialogue between data and human judgment to make a great experience for the reader”

Brittany VanBibber is a senior at NYU studying Journalism and Economics. She is also shamelessly addicted to coffee and social media. You can find her on Twitter at @BritVanB.

Brittany is one of our SMW Press Corps members, managed by OpenCommunications. Learn more here.

Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest insights, trends and best practices from today's leading industry voices.

Learn More

Write for Us

Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.

Apply Here