BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti doesn't mind if people are a little bit confused about the site's mix of LOL-friendly content and, more recently, political scooplets. As a content operation that caters to social networks -- Peretti says that 35 percent of BuzzFeed's traffic currently comes from Facebook, which has eclipsed Google, which sends it 15 percent -- BuzzFeed is merely matching the mishmash people are used to finding in their Facebook Newsfeed. "Next to people getting drunk at a party is a story about the Arab Spring next to a celebrity next to all these things you and your friends are interested in," he told The Atlantic Wire. "It's becoming normal to see content mixed together that normally a traditional media site wouldn't put together."
Pretty soon, the site's capacity to do journalism will extend far beyond snapshots of Mitt Romney's old campaign fliers and scoops about Ron Paul's latest endorsement. Last Friday, Ben Smith, the Politico veteran who took over the site's editorial operation in December, announced that he was bringing on RollingStone.com's Doree Shafrir as executive editor in charge of cultural coverage, which left some wondering if BuzzFeed wanted to be more like Gawker or The New York Times or The Huffington Post, which Peretti co-founded. But to Peretti, those people are missing the point. BuzzFeed is a post-media outlet media outlet.
"We are one of the only publishers I know that gets more traffic from Facebook than Google although I am sure there will be more soon as the industry continues to shift toward social," he said. What that means is that BuzzFeed's social news plan is an organism of sorts that will, well, feed off the buzz and free content provided by its meme-spotting and post-submitting readers. Based on internal traffic numbers, Peretti said that 25 percent of BuzzFeed's traffic comes from user-generated content. Hiring editorial staffers like Smith and Shafrir sounds like a way to supplement that growth. "There's a small number of users who post stuff that does as well as our editors," Peretti added. "The community produces way more posts than our editors."
According to its internal traffic numbers, BuzzFeed is now getting over 25 million unique visitors a month. (Quantcast, which typically skews lower than other traffic measurements, puts BuzzFeed at about 15 million monthly uniques.) Peretti says that they've hired nine editors since Smith joined the site at the end of last year, bringing the total staff up to 70. "We just moved into a new office that can fit 120 people," he said. "We hopefully have a little over a year to fill out this office." With $15.5 million in fresh financing, the startup has the resources to grow, too.
But don't expect Smith to issue an editorial manifesto. "We're not quite ready because partly because we don't know and partly because we don't want to tell," Smith said. But it will involve scoops. "I'm obsessed with scoops and love them and want one a day from everyone that works here," he said. "It's certainly not going to be a news wire and not going to be an opinion page. We need to hew very closely to traditional journalistic values and totally disregard traditional forms."