The media mogul (twice over) on being both contagious and sticky
By Felix Salmon
Illustrations by Young Professionals
I first got to know Jonah Peretti in February 2011, very shortly after the Huffington Post was sold to AOL. At the time, he explained to me that BuzzFeed, a company he had built to seed viral content, had become astonishingly popular in its own right, which didn’t surprise me in the slightest, because virtually everything that Jonah Peretti touches seems to become contagiously popular.
Jonah had made a healthy amount of money from the Huffington Post sale — he was a co-founder, after all. But he wasn’t yet a media mogul in his own right. Now, in 2014, he is.
BuzzFeed, Jonah’s erstwhile viral experiment, has become a white-hot property which is almost certainly worth more than the $315 million AOL paid for the Huffington Post. (While the Huffington Post had just $30 million of revenue when it sold, BuzzFeed is expecting to bring in four times that amount in 2014.)
Jonah is not your typical media mogul, however. He’s smarter than most, and more accessible, and also much happier than many to share his thoughts. Which is why I asked Jonah if he’d be interested in talking to me over an extended period. To my delight, he said yes, and we ended up having four interviews spanning more than six hours.
The resulting Q&A is long, for which I make no apologies. You’ll learn a lot about Jonah Peretti and how he thinks — but you’ll also learn a great deal about the modern media world, the way the Internet has evolved, and the way that Jonah has evolved with it.
If you want to learn the secret of how Jonah managed to build two of the world’s most important online media properties, you’ll find that here, too. Which brings me to another way in which Jonah differs from most other moguls. If you succeed in building something similarly successful as a result, he will be cheering you all the way.