Jonah and the Whale

BuzzFeed C.E.O. Jonah Peretti.
BuzzFeed C.E.O. Jonah Peretti. Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BuzzFeed Inc.
Dylan Byers
April 21, 2023

Back in December 2011, less than two months after I started working as a reporter on Ben Smith’s political-media blog at Politico, then one of the scoopiest and most talked-about little shingles in journalism, I got a call from my new boss that left me confused, anxious, and a little pissed. Ben told me that he would be leaving Politico to join BuzzFeed, a still largely untested digital media company whose grand editorial innovation appeared to be allowing sophomoric users to “like,” “dislike” or “WTF” whatever viral content was trending on social media. Upon this institution of millennial self-expression he would ostensibly be erecting a credible news organization.

I had come to Politico—and left New York for cosmopolitan Washington, of all places—in large part because I wanted to work with Ben, a trailblazer who had presciently recognized that so-called blogging—i.e., writing conversationally and intelligently, in a format readers actually enjoyed, and on the social web—was a gateway to a new frontier of connectivity, media entities, and further format innovation. Ben also recognized that news was the currency of the Internet, and that it needed to be packaged in tweet-sized nuggets, or “snackable content,” as the beancounters would eventually coin it.