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BuzzFeed and Time magazine: The next big thing always starts out looking like a toy, and media is no exception

on March 10, 2014


BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti wrote a kind of open letter to his employees recently, in which he compared the rapidly growing viral-content empire to Time magazine. Is this just the typical kind of hubris that infects startup founders, to compare a nine-year-old website known primarily for its “listicles” and funny cat GIFs to a venerable and award-winning newsmagazine like Time? Not really. In fact, there are a lot more similarities between Time magazine and BuzzFeed than even most media-industry watchers would probably care to admit.

Peretti describes how he started reading David Halberstam’s book “The Powers That Be,” about the early days of what are now the leaders of the mainstream media — entities like CBS and the New York Times and Time Inc. — and how it struck him that those companies were once very much like BuzzFeed: scrappy new players run by people with new ideas about…

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