Buzzfeed: Everyone is Literally* Crazy

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed delivered an entertaining keynote touching on content, social networking and cats. The key theme was that many Internet users’ online behaviors actually roughly correlate to DSM-IV-recognized mental disorders, including:

Histrionic Disorder
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Caffeine Intoxication

As he dove into each of these mapping them to online behavior, he made a number of interesting insights that align with Buzzfeed’s approach to curating compelling content and driving eyeballs. In the end so much of how people embrace some content and not others reflects traits that are inherently human. A slide from Blade Runner was shown and the Voight-Kampff test was referenced.

One example was the role of cute/funny content in our lives. When you and a friend laugh together about a good joke, the next day you may not remember the joke as much as you remember being with your friend and sharing a good time. Similarly, cat pictures are not about cats – they are about connecting with other people.

A content-related tip was to “publish into the zeitgeist”. You try to capture a fleeting moment when everyone is interested in the same thing. An example of this was Buzzfeed’s picture of tipped-over yogurt as “earthquake damage”. A more recent example could be the now-famous Oreo tweet during the Super Bowl blackout.

Jonah’s presentation also contained a nugget of direct advice to marketers. When creating ad creative that you hope to go viral, consider the extent to which the content is the sort of thing someone would be proud sharing. He noted that the things people search for on Google the most (e.g. “sex”) rarely correlate with things they share on social networks. So from a creative standpoint, this drives a divide between a brand’s SEO and display ad strategy and their content/social strategy. As Jonah pointed out, women in bikinis may drive browser clicks, but that same content is unlikely to be proudly shared on social networks even if it is otherwise compelling.

On another note, Jonah shared that 50% of Buzzfeed’s video traffic happens during Primetime TV hours. This could indicate Buzzfeed has become something of a competitor to many of the emerging second-screen applications that tether to the TV programming being watched.