BuzzFeed CEO: Understanding ‘how information is shared’ can be as valuable as ‘traditional reporting talent’

Adweek | Bloomberg News | Dave Weigel

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti explains to Adweek what his publication looks for in employees: “People who really understand how information is shared on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and other emerging platforms, because that is in some cases as important as, you know, having traditional reporting talent,” Peretti says.

(Also: It helps if you can make a raging PB&J.)

Whatever hiring metrics are in place, they’re working: BuzzFeed “is forecasting revenue of as much as $120 million in 2014,” Alex Barinka and Jon Erlichman report. It’s projecting about $60 million for this year, they write.

BuzzFeed, which has seen its Web traffic more than quadruple over the past year, is completing work on its 2014 budget and will soon present the numbers to the board, one of the people said. This year’s revenue projection was raised from $40 million in the middle of 2013 because the company was growing faster than expected, according to the person.

Sponsored content and ads BuzzFeed runs on other sites account for “about a quarter” of its revenue, Barinka and Erlichman write.

In his video, Peretti talks about BuzzFeed’s “great coverage during the Boston bombings,” which he said hinged on having “great reporters on the ground, which we did, and having a team in NY that really understood the social Web.” Thus, Peretti says, they were able to sift through “a lot of wrong information or people who have questionable motives or are trying to perpetuate hoaxes.”

But Dave Weigel calls out BuzzFeed for publishing a very popular story about a Thanksgiving plane ride that turned out to be hooey. The hoax was “mostly harmless,” Weigel writes, but its success, and what he considers BuzzFeed’s lack of due diligence, points to a larger issue with regard to buzzy, viral stories on the social Web.

Yes, people on the Internet want to believe salacious stories. Reporters want to publish stories that people read. If there’s a great reward, and little downside, to be had in publishing bullshit, the Internet’s going to get more bullshit. As one of my colleagues put it, “‘Too good to check’ used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on bullshit stories. Now it’s a business model.”

Related: Readers will ‘eventually choose the juicy truth over a heartwarming hoax,’ says Nick Denton | Is viral content the next bubble?

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