Jonah Peretti Pulls Back the Curtain on Social Publishing

The brain behind BuzzFeed tells Charlie Rose it’s all about ‘emotional resonance’

It took less than two minutes before Charlie Rose had BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti talking about "cute kittens" last evening (April 18), which, interestingly enough, is exactly why BuzzFeed has turned the digital publishing arena on its head.

Peretti’s willingness to intermingle cute kittens with stories about RNC chairman Reince Priebus has made BuzzFeed a dominant force in our media zeitgeist and has left other media platforms breathless trying to keep up. Last night, Peretti sat down with Charlie Rose on his eponymous PBS syndicated interview show to discuss seismic shifts in the digital publishing world and how emotional intelligence and a little luck may be the key to winning the future of the Internet.

If we’re to glean anything from Peretti’s interview, it’s the importance of emotional resonance on the social Web. “Whether it’s serious or substantive content with reporting or entertaining content, things spread through social channels now,” Peretti told Rose. Peretti appeared adamant that viral content has to make an emotional impact with readers in order to become the catalyst for a shared experience across social media. According to Peretti, humor, entertainment and scoops do just that.

“The first shift is with editorial content,” he notes. “You have reporters, editors creating things that people find worthy of sharing and that’s a higher bar than something you find in a search engine.” Yet, Peretti isn’t stopping at how content is distributed; he’s looking to change the way brands sell their message. “Brands are also seeing the value of branded content and social content,” Peretti told Rose. “Now brands are jumping in saying, ‘I don’t want to just interrupt people with my television commercial; I want to make something that people see and share with their friends.'"

Surely the model still has to prove itself over time to truly make a difference, but with articles like "13 Simple Steps to Get Your Through a Rough Day" receiving nearly 4 million views in two weeks, it's hard to argue with the numbers they’re putting up. More important is the editorial talent that Peretti has and is continuing to scoop up, reflecting a growing trend that journalists are acknowledging shifts in the media landscape positioning themselves accordingly. Now, it's up to traditional publishers to recognize the need to become true social publishers—easier said than done.

You can watch the entire Charlie Rose interview here.

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