Skill of spotting ‘contagious’ stories is this site’s success formula

The creation of MIT Media Lab graduate, Jonah Peretti, this is a news+search+social site that leverages his immense expertise in fathoming content likely to be most ‘liked’. He first used that acumen at The Huffington Post, brewing up a bubbling cauldron of goofy cat shots and tatty celebrity news behind a leading page of serious news, analysis and commentary. Now, the foresighted expert has developed technologies, which lets his brainchild very quickly determine what media content flow is dominating at a given point.

These are the most in-demand stories, being posted and widely shared – proving contagious, and suddenly surfacing on several Facebook pages, before forming a virtual wave.

Basis of a social news hub

After AOL acquired The Huffington Post last year, he started to work on his pet project full-time. The social media and content trendsetter has made following observations that form the basis of his creation, BuzzFeed:

  • As the publishing world has realigned from being mostly about portals and then search and now social, how do you build a media company for a social world?
  • And a big part of that is scoops and exclusives and original content; it’s also about cute kittens in an entertaining cultural context.
  • People are now (getting) used to having everything mixed together in a Facebook newsfeed. A story about the Arab Spring will be right next to a picture of your sister’s new baby. So why not have a publishing site, which can embrace those colliding worlds?

He asks, himself providing the answer. So now he has high and low, news laced with some fun, all of it ready for sharing.

A peculiar mix of listicles, Web memes and oddities

In a sense, he was reverse-engineering the successful HuffPo formula, with the funhouse the point of it all, including those like ‘10 things you never knew you could do with a crescent roll’. The home page main headers told the tale: LOL, omg, geeky, trashy, wtf?  With its peculiar mix of listicles, Web memes and oddities, the platform was initially a touch similar to The Huffington Post. Mr. Peretti changed the whole focus by hiring a highly regarded blogger, Ben Smith, as the editor-in-chief. The message behind the move was clear: BuzzFeed wanted to be a player in news, managing some important breaking news. Soon afterward, it raised funds worth $15.5 million.

Mixing serious news and fun views

Analyzing its strategy, The New York Times columnist David Carr mentioned: “BuzzFeed wasn’t simply hiring brand names for them to serve as lustrous hood ornaments that connote credibility. They were more like maypoles: rather young writers native to the Web world who become pivot points for contents since they’re bathed in both the practice and ethos of social media.”

If it continues to keep its success rate going, BuzzFeed can well generate at some stage the kind of traffic flow that will easily rival existing behemoths.