BuzzFeed's 2008 Investor Pitch: See Jonah Peretti's Predictions, Right and Wrong
CEO Predicts Rise of 'Native' Advertising, But Not an Editorial Team
Back in the spring of 2008, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti put together an investor deck as his five-employee startup was trying to raise its Series A investment. Yesterday, he showed it to his staff at an all-hands meeting; BuzzFeed President Jon Steinberg was then kind enough to pass it along to Ad Age. We've embedded the full 21 slides below.
Some of Mr. Peretti's business projections proved wrong -- way wrong. For example, Mr. Peretti predicted that BuzzFeed would "dramatically grow traffic without hiring editors." His company's editorial staff now numbers 90.
In an email this morning, he explained his thinking at the time.
"I was still at huffpost so I was in a bit of denial about not hiring editors," he said. "I thought huffpost could be a media business and BuzzFeed a tech business which would avoid the awkwardness of both companies trying to hire the same type of people. We didn't start hiring lots of editors until after Aol bought HuffPost and I was no longer affiliated. Also the VCs I was meeting had a strong anti-editorial bias which is still mostly true today."
The deck includes a separate detail that would today make the company's president Jon Steinberg cringe: the inclusion of standard ad units on some Buzzfeed.com pages (slide 17). BuzzFeed, of course, eschews standard ad units on its site and instead relies on sponsored posts. The standard ads, Mr. Peretti wrote, would be "dynamically" placed "next to the hottest content."
But the deck also shows that Mr. Peretti saw the rise of native advertising before most others. One of the keys to the business model was "Advertising as content," according to the deck.
On the next slide, Mr. Peretti fleshes that idea out a bit. "The future of the industry is advertising as content. Key Examples: Google sponsored links and YouTube promoted videos. Advertising and editorial content have the same format."
He even uses the word -- wait for it -- "native."
"BuzzFeed partners can publish and promote their buzz on the BuzzFeed site," he wrote. "The promotion is native to the site and works as content and advertising."
As for competition, Mr Peretti predicted: "Competition will come as content and advertising converges and more companies enter that space."
Here's the 2008 presentation: