AIB Featured Business Leader – Jonah Peretti
American internet entrepreneur Jonah Peretti describes himself as “a teacher, then a technologist, and then a maker of sharable things on the internet.” He also happens to be the co-founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, as well as a co-founder of The Huffington Post. He is a regular speaker on technology, activism and contagious media, and has advised a number of leading tech and media companies on their strategies. It’s clear that he is a strong strategist, but how did he get to his current power position? Learn about the career of Jonah Peretti below, and how under his leadership, BuzzFeed hopes to outlast the pack of online media.
Jonah Peretti grew up in Oakland, California where he attended the University of California and graduated with a degree in environmental studies in 1996. He had an interest in teaching and taught computer science classes in the mid 1990’s, before decideding to return to study at the MIT Media Lab. There, he studied educational technology, telling Digital Riptide that he wanted to “think about how technology could influence and improve learning”. It was at MIT where he became known for an email exchange with Nike over a request to print ‘sweatshop’ on a custom order of shoes. At the time, email was the platform for conversations going viral, and this particular exchange went on to be forwarded thousands of times. This is what got Peretti thinking about the virality and spread of messages.
In 2001, Peretti led the research and development team at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. There, he hosted the Contagious Media Showdown, and developed the concept of the Bored-at-Work-Network, which he believed to be larger than some major television networks. In 2005, he partnered with Kenneth Lerer and Arianna Huffington to co-found The Huffington Post. In just six years, the online platform had grown so much that it was acquired by AOL for $315 million.
The growth of BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed was founded in November 2006 and was originally known for its mix of internet memes and lists. It gained new attention when it was the first to break news about the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, and continued to grow from there, raising over $35 million in funding from investors in that next year. Under Peretti’s leadership, the site raised another $50 million from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and was reportedly valued at nearly $1 billion by the firm.
When asked by Fast Company about his influencers, Peretti referred to a company that started more than 100 years ago – Paramount Pictures. Paramount owned a film production studio, its own cast of talent and its own distribution channel in the form of theatres. He said, “That allowed them to adapt and change as the market changed,” and is exactly what he hopes he can do with BuzzFeed. As the platform expands globally to locations such as the U.K., Australia, India and Brazil, it’s clear that Peretti’s plan is well underway.
In late 2014, BuzzFeed implemented a major change, shifting the company’s strategy significantly. Recognising that users prefer to consume content within their social media apps rather than being directed to websites, BuzzFeed began publishing original text, images and video directly to where the audience spent its time – on 30 different global platforms including Facebook. Content was tailored specifically for the network and audience, rather than one piece that was circulated across all of them. This is clearly working well for them as BuzzFeed now generates 5 billion monthly views, and 80 million clicks to the website each month, making it more popular than The New York Times.
It’s clear that through his keen interest in media consumption and internet use, Jonah Peretti has built an absolute internet empire. His work has been covered by the Washington Post, Time Magazine, CNN and Good Morning America, which has seen his popularity grow even more.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Richest Celebrities, Wikipedia, Fast Company, Digital Riptide
Image Credit: Richest Celebrities