What’s Old Is New: Jonah Peretti’s BuzzFeed Memo On Building A New Media Empire In 7 Takeaways

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti posted a staff memo comparing the media empire BuzzFeed is building now to media empires of the past. Don’t have time to read the entire thing, which is over 2,000 words long? That’s OK. We’ve broken it down for you into seven key points:

1. Time magazine began in the 1920s as an old-time blog, summarizing stories from newspapers — just like BuzzFeed did:


2. Time grew by creating “irresistible lists” just like BuzzFeed:

time buzzfeed lists

3. Time’s breakthrough was launching Life magazine in the 1930s with amazing pictures. It could do this because glossy paper technology became available. “When smartphones became social and could display vivid pictures and video for the first time,” BuzzFeed had a similar tech breakthrough:

buzzfeed life

4. Publications build a great business by remaining true to their readers and editorial mission:

readers readers readers

5. “Real” journalists only worked in print. Then radio and TV came along to break all that down. Then “real” journalists only worked in traditional media, until new media came along to break all that down:

6. Technology strength has replaced geographic or “spectrum” advantages. IE, in the past, it was hard for newcomers to open a new newspaper or TV station because a particular location had several already. Today, it’s hard for people to build the technology that goes behind publishing, such as how BuzzFeed taps into data to build out popular content in formats from quizzes to explainers:

7. New media empires reach many more people than old media empires:

old and new

Credits: Hat tip to Pando Daily for leading me to the Peretti’s BuzzFeed memo. Time makes all its covers available online here, where some of the pictures above came from. For the Life cover, see 10 Iconic Life Magazine Covers. The newspaper readers on the train photo has been memed to death as “all this technology is making us social” so much that tracking down the original source of the photo — which appears to be of Westchester commuters — is impossible. The subway smartphone users photo was shot by Mardruck on Flickr. The White House briefing room story is from the Huffington Post; see also these older but interesting stories from NPR and FiveThirtyEight. The chart of newspaper circulation comes from Wikipedia; BuzzFeed’s traffic chart is from Quantcast.

Related Topics: Channel: Content Marketing | Features & Analysis


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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