When Sarah Lacy put it to Jonah Peretti tonight that his news site Buzzfeed was surprisingly positive, he had a quick comeback: “Hate is a good way to build a community,” he said, before adding, “among a small group.”
Lacy, interviewing Peretti for PandoMonthly in New York City, said that Buzzfeed seemed almost “anti-Nick Denton”, referring to the founder of Gawker, a media gossip site that trades in insider-y snark.
Buzzfeed and Gawker are often compared because they both deliver news on politics, celebrities, viral videos, and cute animals. Buzzfeed, as part of its foray into serious reporting, now has reporters in the White House press corp, and Gawker, under AJ Daulerio’s regime, now dedicates one blogger per day to the cute-animal beat. But when it comes to tone, they’re different beasts.
“We’re more positive, and I think the social Web lends itself to a more positive approach,” Peretti said. “I remember teasing Nick [Denton, a Brit] a while back about how negative the site is and saying, ‘We don’t have all this class resentment and swiping at all the frauds who are running everything in the US – that’s more a British thing.” Americans tend to be more positive, Peretti reckoned. Rather than slagging off billionaires, they aspire to be billionaires.
The other thing is that social Web is inherently open, Peretti said, so stories that are snarky about particular people don’t always make sense to a wide group of readers. “You can’t really share something that’s full of snark”.
What might ultimately determine Buzzfeed’s happy tone, however, is that Peretti is just a chipper fellow. “It’s partly just disposition,” he said. “I tend to be a more positive person.”