Buzzfeed has long been a household name online, whether for breaking news stories or various viral content. The platform prides itself on providing trusted, quality, brand-safe news, and entertainment. Despite its virality, many questions remain surrounding the outlet. Who started Buzzfeed? Why is the platform so critical to the change in digital media? How will Buzzfeed become a long-term digital media conglomerate?
Jonah Peretti was an ordinary graduate student at MIT in 2001 until procrastination got the best of him. During an interview with Business Insider, he explains, the night he got into a heated email exchange with Nike over the wording they would allow for their customized ID shoes. The ironic part is this email went viral before the term “going viral” even existed! Before he knew it, he was discussing Nike on the Today’s show with the company’s global head of PR and Katie Couric.
This overnight fame put him in contact with Ken Lerer and Ariana Huffington. A quick friendship between the three led to the founding of the Huffington Post in 2005. Even after his early success, Peretti was not satisfied and was hungry to make progress in the digital marketing industry; constantly looking for what could be done bigger and better.
“I think when you look at media, you always have to look at what new media technologies enable that was not possible before….When you look at internet media business, one of the big things you get from the internet that you don’t get in print and broadcast is feedback from the audiences and this massive amount of data that comes in and shows you what people are sharing,” (Shontell, 2017).
His drive led him to create Buzzfeed Labs and, like any young go-getter, he tried to do it all by balancing the Huffington Post and his newest venture. When Huffington Post sold to AOL, however, Peretti decided to focus solely on Buzzfeed.
Remember the days of AIM and instant messaging? Buzzfeed Labs hoped to capitalize on this trend when they launched their first product: “BuzzBot.” It was meant to function as a trend detector and would instant message a link that made it to the top of the trend. However, Peretti explains that it didn’t work out in the long term because it only allowed ten people to be connected at once (Shontell, 2017).
What started as a small experiment has now reached millions of people and expanded into various expansions. Buzzfeed currently partners with other media companies to produce entertainment and news, including Netflix, Twitter, and Facebook. So, how does Buzzfeed stay at the top of its game and continue to grow into an even more giant media conglomerate?
Jonah Peretti told the New York Times that he has toyed with merging Buzzfeed with a large publishing company; hinting that he has his eye on Vice, Vox Media, Group Nine, and Refinery 29 (Lee, 2018). He has shared that the only way to keep the company’s success is to keep increasing income. “A company that doesn’t generate money isn’t a company that gets to do very much. From a business standpoint, money is a means to an end,” (Lee, 2018).
More recently, Buzzfeed has partnered with Walmart and launched their “Tasty” video series to create cooking videos. The company has also expanded to release a cookware line, a deal that, according to the New York Times, was worth more than $20 million.
How do you interact with people around the world? Peretti says Buzzfeed is successful because the site answers this kind of question and provides a way for people to connect with each other.
The answer has become ever-changing since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Maybe you connect with another person through Facetime, Zoom, or tagging each other in Instagram posts or reels.
Peretti says he realized that “people were using content to connect to other people in their lives, and they were using content to express their identity, political beliefs, or cultural beliefs. They were using content to feel less alone. In a way, content and communication had converged where you weren’t just consuming content.”
He says the expansion comes when people start connecting over a new form of media as, “we’ve evolved along with the way consumers have evolved and the way social interactions have evolved online, ”(Shontell, 2017). So what’s next for the media giant?
A few years back, Jonah Peretti had brief conversations with parties interested in acquiring Buzzfeed, including Disney. Peretti did not pursue any acquisitions, however, and as of December 6, 2021, Buzzfeed is a publicly-traded company.
Expansion and public awareness, are the biggest drivers in a company going public although, Buzzfeed has never been lacking in terms of public attention. The biggest perk of Buzzfeed going public is that they are able to consolidate other publishers under the Buzzfeed label. While Peretti has an idea of future consolidations, these plans are still tentative as they depend on how well Buzzfeed does as a public company.
Currently, things at Buzzfeed are not going well. Several former employees are suing the company due to mismanaging the public listing process and company stock has plummeted more than 40%– leaving many who bought shares in trouble.
The lawsuits allege that “Buzzfeed either negligently or intentionally botched its IPO process so badly that claimants could not trade their shares when the company hit the market,”(Fischer and Primack, 2022). The number of employees accusing Buzzfeed has increased to eighty and they are all seeking, “compensatory damages estimated at more than 8.7 million,” (Robertson, 2022).
Buzzfeed has responded, denying any responsibility for the accusations. They argue that they have prioritized communication with former and current employees to provide necessary information to manage their equity as the company went public, (Fischer and Primack, 2022).
Buzzfeed seemed invincible, but could this be what takes down the giant media company? Or will they again turn things around and prove why they were on top in the first place? Peretti seems to think so.
Despite having no public market experience, he said, “The most important thing is we have a resilient, diverse business that can manage through changes in the marketplace…This gives us this new platform to do many things that were impossible to do before as a private company,” (Smith, 2021).
As a digital marketing agency, it is important to us that we stay up-to-date on the current events in media and marketing as it helps us to stay on top of trends and remain informed. Reach out to BlueTickSocial today for all your up-to-date digital media needs!