|Going Viral: Buzzfeed, Rulers of the Internet|
|By JOHN DONVAN (@johndonvan) and MEREDITH FROST (@MeredithFrost)||Apr 23, 2013, 3:31 PM|
The Holy Grail of Internet existence: Going viral.
In a world where brands, celebrities and wannabe stars are trying to become the next big Internet sensation, one website seems to have it down to a science.
It's called Buzzfeed and it's on the cutting edge of all things, well, buzzworthy.
"You can't trick people into sharing any content that they don't like and so you have to make things that are compelling to people," said Ben Smith, Buzzfeed's editor-in-chief. "I think it's a cool time to be a reporter because it's back to trying to tell stories that people really want to share and want to talk about and want to read."
Buzzfeed is only seven years old, but it is already worth an estimated $200 million, with more than 50 million unique visitors per month -- For some perspective on that scope, the New York Times website gets around 29 million unique visitors per month.
Short, fun and enticing posts like "21 Things That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity" have spread like wildfire across social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.
Yet in an age where Twitter and Facebook have the power to spark revolutions and overturn leaders, all of that social capital is a terrible thing to waste, which is why Buzzfeed has broken into breaking news.
Buzzfeed Politics reporter Andrew Kacsynski, better known as "Buzzfeed Andrew," has sailed into Twitter stardom with a sixth sense for a story on the verge.
"Back in the '90s and '80s people were looking at the political reporting cycle in news days, and now it's almost becoming news hours, news minutes, to a point where we're just trying to get those micro-stories before anyone else," Kacsynski said.
After displaying their political chops during the contentious 2012 election, the website recently received over $20 million in funding to keep the on-the-pulse scoops coming in at breakneck speed with original reporting and video.
"My goal is to get these micro-stories that no one is noticing," Kacsynski said. "I had this story about how this character on the History Channel who played Satan sort of looked like President Obama. I actually talked to a bunch of my colleagues, so I wasn't going crazy, this guy actually looks like President Obama. We got that story up at midnight. I woke up the next morning and the story had just blown up: 300,000 views."
While pop culture, politics and puppies may seem like a strange recipe for success, it makes sense when you realize it all comes down to emotion.
"When you think about the way people connect to each other, and how content media on the social web allow people to connect with each other, laugh together, feel emotion together, that is a powerful thing," said Buzzfeed Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti.
Peretti and Ben Smith shared their four viral rules with "Nightline."
"One of our biggest posts was, 'The Most Powerful Images of 2011,' and a lot of them were very serious moments -- the 9/11 memorial opening, the death of Steve Jobs, the tsunami in Japan," Peretti said. "It allowed people to relive and feel the pain and the poignancy that they had over that whole year and went we went through that whole year together."
"A little over a year ago there was this earthquake in New York City," Peretti said. "It was a small earthquake but because we're not used to earthquakes here in New York, everyone freaked out."
"There was absolutely no damage," he continued. "[But] we quickly did a post that was the most shocking pictures of the damage from the East Coast earthquake and it was like a yogurt cup knocked over, and like a picture not quite aligned."
"People misunderstand why kittens are so important on the Internet," Peretti said. "It's not about the kitten, it's about people feeling an emotion at the same time -- people looking at it saying, 'aww,' and everyone has a shared experience laughing, or feeling an emotion, and that's something that brings people closer together."
"When you see a post about boy bands from the '90s or you see a post about candy you can't eat anymore because they stopped making it and you remember it from the time when you were a kid -- it's a powerful thing to connect with people who are your age who have the same memories," Peretti said.