In an email to employees and investors, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti quantifies the sharable-news site’s success (30 million monthly uniques; revenue on pace to triple over 2011; 117 full-time employees) and explains at length the strategy behind it.
Especially interesting are the memo’s attempts to contrast BuzzFeed with other news and content websites. For example, Peretti says “we don’t try to trick” readers, which is “surprisingly rare” among other Web publishers.
First of all, we don’t publish slideshows. Instead we publish scrollable lists so readers don’t have to click a million times and can easily scroll through a post. The primary reason to publish slideshows, as far as I can tell, is to juice page views and banner ad impressions. Slideshows are super annoying and lists are awesome so we do lists!
For the same reason, we don’t show crappy display ads and we make all our revenue from social advertising that users love and share. We never launched one of those “frictionless sharing” apps on Facebook that automatically shares the stories you click because those apps are super annoying. We don’t post deceptive, manipulative headlines that trick people into reading a story. We don’t focus on SEO or gaming search engines or filling our pages with millions of keywords and tags that only a robot will read. We avoid anything that is bad for our readers and can only be justified by short term business interests.
Instead, we focus on publishing content our readers love so much they think it is worth sharing.
He also says BuzzFeed’s commitment to creating its own technology solutions — CMS, post formats, analytics system and ad products — sets it apart from most other publishers, who “build their site by stapling together products made by other companies.” That’s why so many sites look the same “and also why they can be so amazingly complex and hard to navigate. They are Frankenstein products bolted together by a tech team that integrates other people’s products instead of building their own.”
Earlier: Want your work to be shared? Make readers feel something (Poynter) | Are BuzzFeed’s photo lists fair use? (Poynter) | Why BuzzFeed as a real news site is no laughing matter (Poynter) | Related: Danny Sullivan hopes social signals will overtake links as dominant way to rank search results (Marketing Land)