The hype around video and why Facebook rules — 5 questions for Jonah Peretti

Media people don’t like combining hard-nosed political reporting with lots of kitties. Excerpt for Jonah Peretti. Shortly after luring Politico star Ben Smith to help build Buzzfeed’s Washington chops, Peretti launched a new channel devoted to fluffy animals.

It’s all in a day’s work for the Huffington Post co-founder whose media DNA is equal parts technology, marketing and content.

We caught up with Peretti last week in Buzzfeed’s loft-like offices in the Flatiron district where he shared his thoughts on the future of online advertising. Here are some more highlights from the chat:

Video hype

paidContent: Everyone says it’s all about the video. Do you agree?

Peretti: For years, I hated video because it was about pre-roll and that suppressed the virality of the video. It was a no-win: either it’s a revenue source or it could be viral — but you couldn’t have both.

pC: But you’ve come around?

Peretti: There’s a big appetite for social video … A creative sales team can take agency work and ensure it works on social.

pC: What if an advertiser’s video really takes off? Would you want a piece of it?

Peretti: We thought about charging for super-viral videos [but decided against it]. Right now, the brand and the advertiser gets all the upside for free. We don’t want a success penalty.


Which marketers get it

pC: So what brands are doing social best right now?

Peretti: I know most about brands that we’re working with. Virgin has been really exciting. Virgin Mobile is not just interested in how to promote Virgin Mobile as a service but how to create and curate content their audience is excited about. It’s a young tech-savvy frugalista audience. Those are people that are very interested in viral content. Another brand is GE.

pC: The electric company? 

We’ve figured out with GE that every brand has interesting content. I went to their train factory in Michigan and saw how they built these amazing locomotives — and that’s interesting content… We’re going to see more CEO’s at big companies saying ‘we’re going to start thinking like publishers.’


Most impressive techies

pC: Name your favorite thought leaders in the media space

Peretti: I spend a lot of time talking to folks at Facebook and at Twitter too … I think that when you look at the effect Facebook is having on multiple industries, you see a huge amount of disruption and a huge amount of opportunity to create new businesses. Things like Airbnb and Groupon and Zynga couldn’t have really existed without these social channels. Hotels and coupons change when people share them across Facebook, and  I think publishing is changing because of people being able to share content across Facebook.

pC: So the bottom line is keep your eye on Facebook?

Peretti: Yup


Viral Vapor

pC: What do people not understand about viral?

Peretti: The biggest misconception is that viral is about a big number. Viral should focus on how many real people are sharing with other real people.


Favorite sites

pC: So you’re trapped on a desert island and can only have five websites. What are they?

Peretti: BuzzFeed, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail

pC: Well, let’s say news sites then

Peretti: Buzzfeed, Memeorandum, Techmeme, Mediagazer — the Gabe Rivera sites. And you gotta let me have my Facebook and Twitter because that’s where people get their news.

(pC: Or you can just stick with the kitties — here’s the rest of Buzzfeed’s 21 cats imitating art)

Meet Peretti and other media leaders at paidContent 2012, May 23 in New York City.