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Mormons, Mullets, and Maniacs

New York Viral Media Meetup August 12, 2010 Jonah Peretti

the viral web in realtime

The Big Question
• How can you spread your ideas and make them “go viral” on the web? • I have been answering this question by creating media, working on political campaigns, starting companies, and collaborating on research • In the next 15 minutes, I will share everything I have learned in the past 10 years

Key Concept: The Bored At Work Network
• Millions of bored office workers blog, Tweet, Facebook, and IM all day • The BWN is bigger than the BBC, CNN, or any traditional media network • A decentralized network that enables media to “go viral” if ordinary people enjoy sharing it

The Old Broadcast Model

Broadcasters and advertisers decide what is popular…

The New Networked Model

BWN decides what is popular

the viral web in realtime

Strategy #1: Viral Media

• Create media that is perfect for the Bored at Work Network • Key is to make something that is easy to understand, easy to share, and includes a social imperative • A few examples of things I have made...

Nike “Sweatshop” Email
• Ordered a pair of Nikes customized with the word “sweatshop” • Email forward led to a viral cascade • People dedicate their life to fighting for human rights whereas I did not even know much about the sweatshop issue, but....

the viral web in realtime

the viral web in realtime

The Rejection Line
the viral web in realtime

Hanging Out With Close Friends!
the viral web in realtime

OMG! Good Morning America with Chelsea

Limiting Factor: Most Things Are Not Viral
• It is hard to make viral media especially for serious topics • You never know in advance which ideas will work • You can drastically increase your chances for success if you try lots of things and bring the best forward

the viral web in realtime

the viral web in realtime

#2: The Mullet Strategy

Business upfront, party in the back!!!

Business Upfront

the viral web in realtime

Party In The Back!!

Jonah Peretti

Add, Test, Tweak, Optimize, Remove Stories In Real Time

Strategy #3: Big Seed Marketing
• Buy the seed, get the viral for free • Combine art and science to maximize organic viral distribution • Big seed makes viral advertising repeatable for the first time

the viral web in realtime


• •
ViralRank measures the “social reproduction rate” of media It is the key metric to show what is getting shared and linked on the social, realtime web

The Viral Multiplier Effect
• • •
The higher the value of R, the bigger the multiplier effect Most people focus on R > 1 but they are rare and unpredictable Optimizing R values less than 1 is what will transform the advertising industry




BuzzFeed Ads: Viral Optimization
Viral Content

R = 0.1


Viral Content

R = 0.3

Viral Content

R = 0.8

We test R values in realtime and promote content with a higher rank. BuzzFeed editors, users, and advertisers can try lots of ideas and the platform maximizes distribution

Viral Units Available
Story Units Thumbnail Units

Story Unit 1

Related Content


Story Unit 2


Partner Area

Viral Dashboard

Manage and Maximize Viral Lift

Who accelerates sharing with BuzzFeed?

Strategy #4: MANIACS!!!!!!!
• The web is ruled by maniacs like Perez Hilton, Ron Paul zealots, Apple fan boys, blog commenters, animal lovers, and other crazy people • Content is more viral if it helps people fully express their personality disorders • Couch potatoes don’t matter on the web, crazy people do

Histrionic / Narcissistic Personality Disorder

the viral web in realtime

Key to success for FB, blogs,YouTube, twitter

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

the viral web in realtime

Key to success for Wikipedia, online games, comments

the viral web in realtime

Which Is Better: Judaism or Mormonism?

the viral web in realtime

Performance Metrics
15000000 11250000

Jews Mormons











the viral web in realtime

Strategy #5: Learn From The Mormons
• Judaism is a really high quality religion but quality is NOT a growth strategy • Mormons want you to be Mormon! Make evangelism core to your strategy • Focus on the mechanics of how an idea spreads, not just the idea itself

Recap: How To Go Viral
• Viral Media - activate the bored at work network • Mullet Strategy - business upfront, party in the back! • Big Seed Marketing - pay for the seed, optimize for viral lift • Maniacs - target crazy people, not couch potatoes • Mormonism - quality is not enough, build evangelism into your ideas

contact me @peretti