headquarters of the website Buzzfeed.com is
located in Los Angeles, California.
Peretti, founder and chief executive of the wildly
popular website BuzzFeed, is trying to choose his
favorite online video.
‘Drunk vs. Stoned’ was pretty fun," he finally
says, singling out a BuzzFeed video in which a staffer
tests whether it’s easier to function on alcohol or on
marijuana by getting really drunk and, on a different
night, getting really baked. The three-minute video,
featuring side-by-side comparisons of dancing, ball
catching, drawing and Lego building, has scored more
than 3.1 million views since its debut two months ago.
itself is riding high these days. "Drunk vs.
Stoned" was just the latest monster hit in its
arsenal of viral social content, which altogether
attracted record traffic of 85 million unique visitors
in August, three times the number it had a year earlier.
By this time next year, Peretti predicts, BuzzFeed will
be one of the world’s most visited websites.
and BuzzFeed’s staff members, self-described Internet
nerds, have an uncanny ability to predict what will blow
up online. The Manhattan company measures success not by
page views but by shareability — the number of people
who like a post enough to pass it on to their friends
via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media
would rather someone get to a post because a friend
suggested it to them," said Doree Shafrir, BuzzFeed’s
executive editor. "No one wants to share something
crappy, because then they look like idiots. We’re very
cognizant of that."
in 2006, BuzzFeed is dominated by lighthearted, frothy
fare: the funniest cat GIFs of the week, scandalous
Miley Cyrus photos, 19 Reasons Why Pants Are the Enemy.
Peretti, who also co-founded the Huffington Post, is
determined to turn BuzzFeed into more than just a site
known for funny lists and has been vocal about his
ambitious plans to grow the company into an all-around
media juggernaut for the mobile social age.
do so, the 39-year-old hired Ben Smith from Politico to
be BuzzFeed’s editor in chief, beefed up the site’s
hard news coverage and invested in long-form journalism.
To reach international readers, BuzzFeed on Monday
announced that it would add Spanish, French and
Portuguese versions of the site.
latest push: A major video initiative that has brought
BuzzFeed, naturally, to Los Angeles, where it has
converted a former beauty supply store on Beverly
Boulevard into a bureau largely devoted to conceiving
and producing viral videos. It also leased a smaller
production facility a couple of miles away in Hollywood.
was a huge missing piece," Peretti said during a
recent visit to L.A., where he discussed his plans while
shuffling a stack of yellow stickers printed with "omg,"
"lol" and "cute." "We wanted to
do for video what we did with other kinds of
video space has seen radical change in the last few
years thanks to smartphones and tablets, which enable
viewers to watch content online when and where they
massive potential for social mobile video was
exemplified last year by "Gangnam Style," the
over-the-top, dance-happy music video by Korean pop star
Psy that attained new heights of virality. In December
it became the first video to hit 1 billion views on
media executive said, ‘We’re putting this on at
prime time, it’s going to have millions of viewers,
and it’s going to be the biggest thing,’ "
Peretti said. "It was people in their offices,
people on their mobile phones, seeing it and saying, ‘Oh,
I want to share this, I want to pass this around.’
L.A. team, he said, is building the "TV studio and
movie studio of the future" by creating original
videos to fit these new patterns of media consumption.
company is predicting that its core audience of 18- to
34-year-olds will binge watch and share its videos with
the same fervor with which they spread BuzzFeed lists
such as 30 Signs You’re Almost 30 (7.9 million views,
111,000 Facebook shares, 10,000 tweets).
also a slick advertising move, media watchers say.
easiest money to be made in content is pre-roll ads in
front of videos," said Gabriel Kahn, a professor at
the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at
the University of Southern California. "There’s
been kind of a stampede into video."
that BuzzFeed needs help generating money. The social
news site gets all its revenue from so-called native
advertising — shareable ads that look like BuzzFeed
editorial content. Its revenue grew from zero four years
ago to $20 million in 2012, and the company is on track
to do $60 million this year.
is also profitable, although the privately held company
declined to say how much it earns.
which has raised $46.3 million to date, has been on a
hiring spree and now has more than 340 employees; most
are younger than 35.
L.A. office officially opened Wednesday, but a team of
BuzzFeed videographers has been filming and editing
content around the city in the last year. They’ve
already churned out more than 700 videos, 123 of them
amassing 1 million views or more, said Ze Frank, who was
hired last year to lead the team.
videos vary in content and tone. Some are silly, such as
"Sad Cat Diary," a compilation of the thoughts
of supposedly depressed felines (10.4 million views).
Others are somber, including "The Time You Have (In
Jelly Beans)," a look at how the average human
spends the finite amount of time in his or her life (2.4
entire video operation, currently numbering 30 people,
is based in L.A., along with a handful of ad sales reps
and 10 editorial staffers who focus on entertainment
12,000-square-foot, two-level office, decorated with red
foam letters that spell out "BuzzFeed," red
Ikea bookshelves and red chairs, is BuzzFeed’s largest
after its headquarters. The company also has offices in
Washington, Chicago, San Francisco and London and is
opening a bureau in Australia.
New York, BuzzFeed’s meeting rooms are named after
famous Internet cats such as Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and
Henri, Le Chat Noir. In sunny, laid-back L.A., its rooms
pay homage to well-known dogs.
executives say they are looking to build the same kind
of influence in L.A. that the brand has in New York. And
they’d like to dispel the notion that BuzzFeed is, as
its detractors say, a hub for superficiality and
so-called click candy.
reputation shouldn’t be a big concern, USC’s Kahn
whole nature is that it takes its cue from the
audience," he said. "So people who want to
knock it are knocking what the audience says it
is just one of several websites — including the
Huffington Post, Politico and even TMZ — that are
redefining the news industry through "bite-sized
chunks of information," said Sree Sreenivasan, a
professor of social and digital media at Columbia
new players are born on the Internet, they’re of the
Internet, they’re for the Internet," he said.
"They go places where a more careful publication
may not go."
its push for more substantive, hard-hitting content,
BuzzFeed remains a company that doesn’t take itself
too seriously. Staffers don red BuzzFeed hoodies and
thick-rimmed hipster glasses and say the collaborative
environment feels more like a start-up than a rapidly
growing media company.
are divided into three teams — red, blue and yellow
— that playfully trash-talk one another and hold
separate weekly meetings to generate ideas. Each person
aims to make two videos a week.
Team Yellow’s brainstorming session on a recent
Monday, eight video producers toss around ideas that
they can film in the next few days: cute animals that
are actually creepy, best roommate pranks, ways to annoy
the hourlong meeting winds down, video producer Andrew
Gauthier proposes a follow-up to "Drunk vs.
Stoned": "Drunk vs. Baby."
idea catches on immediately.
who could crawl faster, or who could eat spaghetti more
neatly," fellow producer Micaela Mielniczenko
suggests, eliciting raucous laughter. " ‘Drunk
vs. Baby’ I think needs to happen, honestly."