It takes brass balls the size of Texas to take the stage at SXSW, just after announcing a massive round of lay-offs. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti warned not to write off Buzzfeed just yet in his panel. While a lot of critics openly question the viability and long-term sustainability of a business model totally reliant on third party platforms for distribution, Peretti says he sees a bright shiny future.
A little over a year ago, Peretti warned the world that “the media was in crisis.”
“The intervening year has been a challenging one for publishers, with thousands of talented people losing their jobs across traditional and digital media. To navigate this crisis, our team has done inspired, tireless work to diversify our business. We made painful decisions to reduce staff, too. The coming year won’t be a cake walk, but I see a clear path to a bright future for BuzzFeed. I’m hopeful the same is true for many of our peers, Peretti stated.
Crisis on Crisis level out
Buzzfeed’s commercial proposition, that seemed to be cut at the roots by its reliance on platforms as Facebook could recover by an unexpected phenomenon: “The tech platforms — who until recently seemed all-powerful — entered their own time of crisis. The public, the press, and lawmakers now realize how little control the platforms have over the content they distribute to billions. Opportunistic bad actors — anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, conspiracy theorists, misogynists, racists, xenophobes, trolls, partisan extremists, scammers, and pedophiles — have taken advantage. Facebook and YouTube continually tweak their algorithms, use machine learning to detect spam and abuse, and spend billions of dollars hiring tens of thousands of human moderators. Despite these efforts, they are still struggling to police their platforms. Removing bad content will never be enough; the platforms also need to build sustainable models for good content to thrive.”
That is where Peretti sees a bright future: “Digital media content companies can help. We can fill the void on the platforms with quality content, but we need ways to do it sustainably”
Commerce needs content
The basic rule is all too easily forgotten: no pay if no quality content: “Digital media companies scaling down or turning away from the platforms is the exact opposite of what the platforms need. It is much harder to moderate bad content than it is to create good content. No matter how much money the platforms spend, or how many content moderators they hire, this problem won’t be solved by removing bad content, we need an ecosystem where creating good content is sustainable. If tech, content creators and media work together, everyone will benefit”
Content needs safe environments
Peretti piggybacks happily on YouTube’s recent safe-environment debacle: “We just rolled out our own brand safe video network, so marketers can buy across our trusted content. We’re proud to grow our partnership with leading brands who are making the internet better by demanding quality content and holding the platforms accountable. Our creators program allows us to combine the power of influencers with the reach of a quality network”
Don’t Make Shitty TV, Make Good Internet
Peretti also hammered in one of the big setbacks for digital platforms: offline brands, agencies and actors that thinking broadcast media is about pushing the same content to everyone and used to an audience not talking back. “We need to know what matters to them. Like any good friend, we need to listen as much as we speak. So don’t make shitty TV, make good internet.
As the platforms begin to put out the dumpster fire, we are filling the dumpster with fertile soil, it’s time to rebuild the future of our industry and a better internet for everyone.”
I can live with that thought…