The BuzzFeed homepage doesn’t necessarily convey an emphasis on investigative reporting. A sample of the headlines currently on the site’s front page: “Happiness in 26 Photos”, “27 Animals That Are Probably Smarter Than You”, and “Bulldog Adopts Wild Baby Boars”. Yet Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO, says that the site values original reporting with 60,000 pageviews as much as a clickbait-y slideshow that gets 4 million.
“I think the biggest thing for us is that we don’t see them as mutually exclusive,” he says. “We just think that humans are complex people that like to laugh sometimes, like to gossip sometimes, and like to know what’s going on in the world.”
Peretti also likened reading BuzzFeed to reading Sartre in a French cafe. If the reader takes a break from reading philosophy to pet a dog or flirt with someone at another table, he says, that doesn’t mean they’re suddenly incapable of understanding the philosophy. The person looking for investigative journalism, then, isn’t less interested in in-depth reporting because they happened to click on a kitten-laden slideshow.
“I think that people are already going to Facebook or Twitter to get most of their news, and that social is the new starting point,” he says. When one considers that readers are already being bombarded with status updates about your single friend getting drunk and pictures of your friend’s baby, putting a slideshow next to an investigative political piece starts to make a lot more sense.