Jonah Peretti, the founder of Buzzfeed and formerly of the Huffington Post is widely thought of as one of the smartest thinkers in digital media.
In a long interview with the Felix Salmon, the former Reuters journalist and himself one of the savviest commentators on the online space, Peretti discusses the direction of both online publishing and business in general.
“Why do they need so much revenue?” is one of the questions Peretti poses about the recent New York Times’ innovation report and it’s a question worth posing of many organisations – particularly those that are in sectors with declining revenues and margins.
As Yammer founder and now Microsoft employee Adam Pisoni told Decoding The New Economy last year, modern collaboration tools mean modern businesses don’t the need the management layers and staff numbers that older companies needed, this is something that has been lost on many modern media organisations.
Peretti’s views about communications and how stories turn viral is a worthwhile read in itself while his points about fundraising are very pertinent, particularly where he observes that venture capital investors have been reluctant to fund startups which pay writers.
What stands out in the interview is Peretti’s charitable view towards others in the industry, here’s his view on the New York Times’ innovation report.
I did read it. There were a lot of interesting things in it. I think in some places, they were a little bit overly critical of their tech and product team. When you look around the industry, The New York Times has a really great website. They’re building lots of things themselves and integrating them. It doesn’t feel like a Frankenstein website with things bolted on from millions of other places. I was a little surprised at the tone, how critical they were of their web products.
The key question Peretti asks is how do we re-imagine our industries: “What would this be if the readers and the publishers were not focused on making something similar to print?”
While Peretti’s question is asked of the newspaper industry, it’s a question that every business can ask itself as manufacturing, marketing and supply chains are being reinvented.
Following that point, Peretti points out the risks in focusing on simple metrics; too much emphasis on one figure can lead to perverse results in the publisher’s view and following a mission rather than chasing a number is a much better strategy to long term success.
As Salmon says in the introduction, there’s a lot to learn from Jonah Peretti about where the internet and digital media is taking the publishing industry and the business world in general.