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BuzzFeed and The Big Power Shift in Media

buzzfeed_screenshotOne of the featured speakers at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference was Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO of uber-site BuzzFeed.  I was lucky enough to attend this great session, and Peretti had some great points to make.

You must be mobile ready now.

Take a ride on any city bus and you can see that the mobile revolution has already taken place. Every other person has their eyes glued to a smartphone screen. Peretti noted, “Mobile and social have converged.  If you have something that’s great, but it’s not mobile ready, it’s worthless.” He notes that 40% of BuzzFeed traffic is mobile and that 25% of all Facebook traffic is mobile – for now.

On creating “viral” content

BuzzFeed specializes in sharable content with viral potential.  Actual news articles are mixed with lists like “17 Videos Under 30 Seconds Guaranteed To Make You Laugh” or “17 Shakespearean Insults To Unleash In Everyday Life.”

“Quality is not all that matters,” Pertti said. He notes that a great idea alone will not sell – the process should be an even split between creating the idea and planning how to share the idea.

The “Parisian café” principal

Paris Cafe
The Parisian Cafe principal: You go to the cafe with your Newspaper and your philosophy texts, but you stop for a while to pet a dog or talk to a friend.

BuzzFeed’s mix of news and pop culture has been a key to its success. Peretti hired a serious journalist to run the site and help BuzzFeed earn journalistic cred – which it did when it scooped John McCain’s endorsement of Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP primaries.

Peretti noted that many news outlets have declined because they see any goofy content (like “28 Things Only Teenage White Girls Will Understand”) as getting in the way of serious new messages. On the contrary, today’s audience prefers what he calls the “Parisian café” approach.  You go to the café with your Newspaper and your philosophy texts, but you stop for a while to pet a dog or talk to a friend.

“When you pet the dog, you don’t get stupid,” Peretti noted. “That’s why we like news feeds like Facebook, we like a mix of news, humor and friends.”

Social is a way of thinking, not a trick

Learn from the Mormons – how you spread the idea is just as important as the idea itself.

Peretti offered some tips for succeeding in social:

– The most important thing is to have a heart. Think like a person.
– Content is about identity – find something 10% of people care deeply about.
– Be rapid – stop approval barriers that keep content from being posted immediately.
– Cute animals deserve respect
– Nostalgia is social
– So are human rights
– Don’t post things people are embarrassed to share
– Learn from the Mormons – spend time thinking about how to spread your idea
– People love the Paris café – stick close to what makes us human
– Understand your platform – how Pinterest differs from Twitter
– Tell your story 10 different ways
– You can have one person share your content with lots of people (passionate), or lots of people sharing your content with one person (viral)

Have thoughts on this? Leave a comment below!

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