Jonah Peretti’s Buzzfeed has been especially buzz-worthy of late, first with a $15.5M capital raise, and more recently via some fascinating brow-raising editorial hires. First, Ben Smith from Politico and then last week, Doree Shafrir from Rolling Stone… and surely more are on the way. It’s a surprise direction to build original content for a site that had been more of a virality aggregator. Why the sudden change, especially considering BuzzFeed has been so successful at acquiring audience?
Here’s my two cents: Virality is a multiplier. But like any other “x-factor”, it can only make things valuable relative to how much they’re worth to begin with. A 10X booster can add 9 cents to a penny; or it can be worth $90 by turning a Hamilton into a Franklin.
BuzzFeed is among the best on the planet when it comes to this kind of multiplication. And when you’re that good, it only makes sense to start working on the base rate. That means beyond building buzz, the company needs to build a premium brand to attract premium advertisers to its core product and audience. In media, the best way to make a strong brand that attracts high dollars to begin with is with outstanding content.
I’ve been fascinated to see that at Wetpaint. We now see more than 12 million uniques monthly: nearly 6 million on our user-generated wiki platform; and 6+ million more on our premium Wetpaint Entertainment property. They both have great virality that helps them draw audience. But the original editorial in Wetpaint Entertainment makes the advertising worth even more – and it’s an even more valuable business model.
Premium content plus social distribution means a high base, and a high multiplier on the business model. And it’s the perfect combination for a successful business model. Congratulations to Jonah and team for all the success they’re having!