10 min read
Even Rupert Murdoch couldn’t resist taking the Which Billionaire Tycoon Are You? quiz.
Pro Tip: Perhaps, you too want to create BuzzFeed-like quizzes, but are missing the mark? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this super detailed guide.
BuzzFeed Case Study: The Buzzfeed Story (beyond cute cats and memes)Any Westworld fans out here? Alright, don’t get us wrong. We didn’t use Buzzfeed as a bait to get you to read this blog. We ARE, in fact, going to discuss Buzzfeed case study and how they disrupted the media landscape but first, we’ll shift focus to their backstory.
Their Humble BeginningLike every host has a backstory in Westworld, Buzzfeed too has one. If you’re thinking it’s a total rag to riches story, let us warn you it is anything but that. It all started in 2001 when Jonah Peretti, the co-founder and CEO of BuzzFeed was pursuing masters at MIT’s media lab. Like most students, instead of finishing off his thesis (hello procrastinators!), he was busy killing time, exchanging emails with Nike. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? Yeah! He heard about Nike’s shoe customizing scheme and so sent them a request over an email. In the National Public Radio podcast, “How I Built This”, he said, "I first tried a four-letter word and it rejected it, and so I was trying to figure out how the system worked. They had blacklisted a bunch of words.... And then I put the word 'sweatshop' in, and it went through." Thud! Little did he expect that the word ‘sweatshop’ would be rejected too because according to Nike it was an “inappropriate slang”. Was Peretti going to give up? Nope! He said, “No, it's in the dictionary. It means a shop or factory where workers toil around in unhealthy conditions. Now can you send me the shoes?” Guess what followed next? Nike rejected the request. And that's when Peretti put together his correspondence with them and forwarded it to a few of his friends. A few days later, thanks to email forwards, he received emails from thousands of strangers and activist communities (3,655 emails between January 15th and April 5th, 2001). Within three months he was on NBC’s The Today Show debating labor practices. Apparently, “following the broadcast of the debate, Nike’s Manager released a statement reporting that custom shoe sales on the Nike iD site reached their third-highest in a single day on Wednesday.” Good on them, eh? Coming back to Peretti, this whole episode got him thinking as to was “how a student, with no contacts in media, reached billions of people…”
Then Came Ken Lerer, Arianna Huffington, John Johnson & the Famous Buzzfeed LabAmidst all this brouhaha, he came in contact with Ken Lerer and Arianna Huffington, with whom he started the Huffington Post in 2005. Around the same time, he started Buzzfeed as a side project/lab with John Johnson. Both John and Ken Lerer invested money in this. What really got John and Peretti together was their growing fascination about why people share content, what gets them excited and how it affects the media industry, politics, what value do people get when they share etc. BuzzFeed lab’s first product was an instant messaging client, Buzzbot. It’s IMs ran on algorithms that would scour for popular, trending links and forward them to people. Unfortunately, they couldn’t scale it so they created a website and later recruited editors who would write about the links Buzzbot discovered. This seemed to have worked and once they started to attract visitors they decided to raise funding.
But nobody wanted to invest in Buzzfeed.In one of the interviews, Peretti said that “It was always, ‘Is there any way you can do this without having any writers or content creators or journalists? Can you make this automatic? Could you detect what was trending and then grab stuff from other places and turn it into an article synthetically where the cost of content creation would be zero?”
Screenshot of their pitch to investors circa 2008.