A Brief History Of BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed has gone from a twinkle in the experimental eye of Jonah Peretti to a household name in the media world. It has truly disrupted the media landscape, forcing old fogies like the New York Times and fresher pubs like Mashable to re-think the way they present their content. And if that weren’t enough, BuzzFeed’s promoted content business could very well be the best and most profitable in the game.

There’s a lot to learn from a look back. Join us.

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New Year's Day, 1974

Jonah Peretti rings in the New Year by being born.

This is what he looks like as a grown-up.

January, 2001

During his post-graduate studies at the MIT Media Lab, Jonah Peretti runs his first big experiment on the viral internet.

January, 2001

He shares an email conversation between himself and Nike, disputing whether or not Peretti should be allowed to have “sweatshop” printed across his personalized Nike iD shoes. This leads Peretti to question whether or not this type of viral success can be replicated.

2005

After MIT, Peretti works at an artist/creative non-profit studio called eyeBeam, where he meets a guy named Ken Lerer.

May, 2005

As luck would have it, Mr. Lerer has a friend named Arianna Huffington, and all three express mutual interest in starting a new internet media company.

May, 2005

The Huffington Post is born.

May, 2006

After a year of building out the Huffington Post, Peretti feels the need to get back to his tinkering roots. He co-founds Contagious Media, LLC with John Johnson and Ken Lerer.

Summer, 2006

Peretti is splitting his time between a downtown Contagious Media office, where he experimented with social sharing, to the fast-driven Huffington Post Soho office, where the attitude was “let’s build faster, let’s take over the world,” said Peretti.

Summer, 2006

Suffice it to say, early strategies weren’t quite as refined as they are today.

September, 2006

Peggy Wang joins as the first editorial hire at Contagious Media. She will go on to become Editorial Director of BuzzFeed Life.

November, 2006

BuzzFeed launches officially, with Peggy Wang authoring the first piece of content. It looks far more straight-laced than the BuzzFeed of today.

April, 2008

Over the course of the next 18 months, BuzzFeed would make a number of notable hires, including Scott lamb and Eric Harris.

April, 2008

But without investment, the growth of the blog simply won’t be able to meet demand. So Peretti and friends set out to create an investor deck with an interesting twist on traditional media: native advertising.

June, 2008

It works! BuzzFeed (now named BuzzFeed Inc. officially) closes a $3.5 million Series A led by Softbank and Hearst Ventures.

June, 2008

The company is comprised of 9 employees with around 1 million uniques, and starts focusing on the business side of things.

August, 2008

The Series A leads to a handful of new hires, including the additions of Andy Yaco-Mink (now Director of Engineering), Jack Shepherd (now Editorial Director) and Matt Stopera (now director of Creative Projects, who started out as an intern.

October, 2008

BuzzFeed publishes its first big meme, Disaster Girl, by Scott Lamb.

2009

BuzzFeed begins growing rapidly by taking internet native formats (gifs, pins, tweets, lists, etc.) and treating them as equals to traditional formats like long-form writing.

January, 2010

Kicking off 2010, BuzzFeed signs its first client for promoted content. Comedy Central signs on with the media company to promote Tosh.0.

May, 2010

With sponsored content off and running, BuzzFeed closes an $8 million Series B.

May, 2010

By now, the site is seeing 7 million unique views and is on the prowl for a new President to handle the business side of operations. They land on Jon Steinberg, formerly of Google.

October, 2010

Turns out, the whole sponsored content thing works out really well, forcing the company to start hiring out a sales staff. Steve Loguidice joins as director of sales. He is the first sales employee.

February, 2011

Even up until now, Peretti is still involved in the Huffington Post until it’s acquired by Aol.

May, 2011

In preparation for the end of days, BuzzFeed holds a last supper/rapture lunch for the staff.

December, 2011

Making a clear decision to focus on more journalistic endeavors, BuzzFeed brings on established reporter and columnist Ben Smith as Editor-In-Chief.

Late 2011

BuzzFeed makes its first acquisition, buying Star.Me from Ze Frank for an undisclosed amount.

January, 2012

To kick off the new year, BuzzFeed raises a $15.5 million Series C led by New Enterprise Associates, Lerer Ventures, Hearst Interactive Media, Softbank, and RRE.

February, 2012

With the presidential election around the corner, Ben Smith focuses in on political coverage, breaking the news that Senator John McCain plans to endorse former rival Mitt Romney. The company also hires Michael Hastings to cover the President’s re-election campaign.

March, 2012

BuzzFeed comes under fire for lifting images and ideas from Reddit and other forums on the web without properly crediting the original creators.

June, 2012

Ben Smith responds by saying that BuzzFeed’s remixed and refined listicles (often curated from Reddit) are works of art, and Peretti explains that nothing on the internet is original.

September, 2012

BuzzFeed acquires KingFish Labs.

September, 2012

BuzzFeed beefs up its video offerings with the hire of Ze Frank as EVP of Video.

October, 2012

Still growing, BuzzFeed launches a Los Angeles bureau.

January, 2013

Like clockwork, 2013 starts out with a new injection of cash as BuzzFeed closes a $19.3 million Series D round led by NEA along with existing investors, RRE, Hearst, SoftBank, and Lerer Ventures. Michael and Kass Lazerow join as new investors.

January, 2013

BuzzFeed launches a newsmaker speaker series called BuzzFeed Brews, which goes on to include interviews with Marco Rubio, Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Weiner, Jerry Seinfeld and others.

March, 2013

And just like that, BuzzFeed goes international with the launch of BuzzFeed in the UK.

August, 2013

By summer’s end, BuzzFeed is a household name, with 85 million unique visitors and mentions from folks like President Obama and its own “Saw It On BuzzFeed” category on Jeopardy.

September, 2013

And after just 87 short months, Jonah Peretti announces that BuzzFeed is a profitable company.

 

November, 2013

BuzzFeed hits 130 million unique visitors.

January, 2014

BuzzFeed publishes its most popular long-form feature story to date with over 1.5 million views. It’s called “Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500.”

February, 2014

However, BuzzFeed’s most viewed story of all time is a quiz. (“What State Do You Actually Belong In?”) It currently has 41 million views.

February, 2014

Quizzes are so popular, in fact, that celebrities start to get in on the fad. Rupert Murdoch got himself in a quiz about billionaire tycoons, and Ellen Degeneres learns she is actually Chelsea Handler in the “Queens Of Comedy” quiz.

April, 2014

Reports claim that Disney tries to acquire BuzzFeed, with BuzzFeed asking for at least $1 billion.

April, 2014

BuzzFeed Video reaches 1 billion views.

May, 2014

BuzzFeed President and COO Jon Steinberg leaves, with reports claiming that tensions between Steinberg and Peretti are the cause. He’s replaced by Greg Coleman.

June, 2014

Steinberg joins the Daily Mail.

July, 2014

Gawker catches one of BuzzFeed’s most prolific writers, Benny Johnson, the viral politics editor, for having lifted text from various sources on the internet. Further investigation reveals that Johnson plagiarized more than 40 times.

July, 2014

All instances of plagiarism are removed from the site, Johnson is fired, and EIC Ben Smith apologizes.

August, 2014

After raising a total of $46 million in all the years that it has been operational, BuzzFeed secures its biggest round yet, raising $50 million from Andreessen Horowitz. The company is currently valued around $850 million.