Jonah Peretti, born in 1974, is an internet entrepreneur, founder and CEO of BuzzFeed since 2006.
Jonah Peretti: Education
• 1996 : UC Santa Cruz, Environmental Studies
• 2001 : MIT Media Lab
Jonah Peretti: Early days
While a student at he MIT Media Lab, Jonah Peretti saw that the sports brand Nike had launched a new service where customers could ask for a customized wrd to be added on its products. Peretti’s request was to add the word “sweatshop” on his sneakers. This led to a polite back and forth email conversation that Peretti had repeatedly forwarded to all of his friends. The email discussion got so viral that Peretti ended up as a guest on the Today Show with Katie Couric to talk about sweatshop labor.
This experience sparked Jonah Peretti’s interest for all things viral. On the MIT campus, he started to brainstorm the phenomenon of viral content with acquaintances, including Cameron Marlow (founder of Blogdex and head of science team at Facebook) and Duncan Watts. To test a new viral idea he created the The New York City Rejection Line, a phone number that anyone could give to anyone who would hit on (try to seduce) them. The automated system was a rejection message. In 2003, he created the website Black People Love Us, a fake website about a fake WASP couple that was supposedly so proud of having black friends that they made a whole website out of it. Her sister Chelsea Peretti, a standup comedian, helped him sketch those ideas. With all those ideas, Jonah Peretti was attentive to the viral mechanism in play.
Jonah Peretti: Career
After the MIT, John Peretti worked at Eyebeam, where Josh Schachter was when developing Delicious. A worked on the RSS reader project ReBlog that enabled users to repost any article in their feed, a concept that inspired Tumblr and other similar services. He eventually met Ken Lerer who motivated him to launch something together. Lerer had Arianna Huffington join the project and together with other stakeholders they launched the Huffington Post. In 2011, when AOL bought the HuffingtonPost, Peretti left the Huffington Post to dedicate himself full-time to the development of BuzzFeed.
While working at the HuffingtonPost, Peretti launched BuzzFeed Laboratories as a side project in 2006 with John Johnson, spending a day a week on developing it. BuzzFeed was a no-writer, algorithm-driven only (based on rapidity of links dissemination) website that curated buzzworthy stories on the web. A BuzzBot would send the stories through instant messaging to the service’s users. In 2008, BuzzFeed raised $3.5 million. In 2011, Peretti hired Ben Smith from Politico to launch a newsroom within BuzzFeed. In 2012, BuzzFeed raised $15.5 million. In 2014, BuzzFeed raised $50 million. By 2016, BuzzFeed had became a fully-fledged news outlet. At that point, the finances of the company started to be in the red and layoffs started. Revenues were not increasing as they did the previous years. In 2020, BuzzFeed acquired the HuffPost in a deal that made Verizon Media a minority shareholder of BuzzFeed. In 2021, Jonah Peretti took BuzzFeed public.