Can Whisper Be the Platform for Social Whistle-Blowing?

More than just a teen hangout


Who Neetzan Zimmerman

Age 32

New gig Editor in chief of Whisper

Old gig Senior editor at Gawker

What does the editor in chief of Whisper do, exactly?

Right now, we’re looking at 3 billion pageviews a month at Whisper. But as fantastic as that is, most people who come to Whisper don’t really know what’s available. They’re just going through the stream, hoping to come across a whisper that’s entertaining. It would be much more convenient for them and also more beneficial for Whisper if there was a way to filter content that was more intuitive. The other thing I’d like to do is direct usage so that there’s a better understanding of what Whisper can do, what it’s good for, and what it can beto the audience.

How do you want people to use the app?

Whisper is, at its essence, the anti-Facebook, and what that means is that anything that you felt you couldn’t share on Facebook, now you have a place to share it. That ranges from the smallest things to “My company is embroiled in a tax-evasion scandal and I can’t tell anyone about it.”

Right now, it seems like most whispers are of the “teen angst” variety.

My intention is to show users that there is content on there that is much more serious and also represents implications for their lives—for instance, things that are going on in restaurants or stores that they frequent, or things that are going on locally or in government. When I was at [the Whisper offices] the first time, it was after the Colorado school shooting. There was a student who was at the school at the time, using Whisper as a platform to recount his experience. That occurred several hours before CNN managed to get any student in front of a camera.

What would the editors then do with that newsworthy information?

What I’m envisioning is a way to actively package and promote content in a way where it becomes consumable on other platforms, not just through Whisper. I know, for instance, on Gawker, a story about something going on at Starbucks, like a barista doing something they should not be doing, tends to do really well. On Whisper, there are tons and tons of stories just like that.

If a user were to whisper something newsworthy, would you publicize that, or does that go against the whole concept of Whisper?

I believe that doing that would help Whisper gain a veneer of gravitas because it would not be seen as a teen hangout. It would be seen as a place where you might encounter information about ongoing events that you would not be privy to on other platforms because thoseare associated with identities. Thatis the main benefit, in my opinion, of Whisper. There really is no platform right now for what I would call social whistle-blower.

People have portrayed you as this viral genius because of your role driving traffic for Gawker.

It was my task to post viral content, and that, in large part, is what allowed me to generate the amount of traffic that I generated. The only real difference between myself and someone who’s trying to do something similar and not doing as well is the fact that I understand that there’s no magic bullet. I know a lot of what I know simply for having been around long enough to gather the necessary experience. You understand what makes a good cat video, for example, just from looking at past successes. That is the only way to do it.

Photo: Alfred Maskeroni

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