×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti: Paywalls Are Bad for Democracy

News publishers who move their products behind paywalls and only serve paying audiences don’t serve democracy, argued BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., Wednesday. “If you are thinking about an electorate, the subscription model in media doesn’t support the broad public,” he said.

Peretti admitted that subscription news content may be a good business model for newspapers like the Wall Street Journal. But he also outlined a dystopian view, painting a picture of a future in which only a wealthy elite would get access to good journalism from papers like the Journal and the New York Times, leaving the vast majority of the public with clickbait and fake news spreading on social platforms.

“It’s a big question for democracy: The business model of news is changing,” he said. “That’s a big challenge for the world.”

However, Peretti also said that he has also seen big tech companies stepping up to solve these problems through new revenue streams, and increased revenue for ad-supported content. For instance, BuzzFeed has seen big increases in revenue from Facebook Instant articles.

Peretti admitted that working with Facebook and the like also means having to quickly adapt if and when these companies change course, and emphasize certain features or phase out products. “For us, it’s great. The more change, the better,” he said.

At the same time, Peretti said that BuzzFeed doesn’t try to tweak its content based on each and every small change. “We try to not think too much about the algorithm,” he said. “The algorithm is always flawed, and it’s always changing.”

To prove his point, Peretti cited the videos BuzzFeed has been producing under its Tasty and Nifty brands, which are all about cooking and DIY projects, respectively. These videos may get the same amount of shares as a viral news clip, he said, but result in a deeper engagement.

“A large chunk of them will spend their entire weekend building that product,” he said. Algorithms would not know about this type of follow-up engagement. BuzzFeed is trying to track it through engaging with its audience, said Peretti: “We know that’s a deeper, more meaningful thing.”

More Digital

  • JUMP camera

    Google Is Shutting Down Its Jump VR Video Program

    Google will shut down Jump, its cloud-based video stitching service, this summer. The company emailed creators Friday afternoon to tell them that Jump would be shuttered on June 28, and detailed plans for the shut-down on its website as well. In its email, Google justified the closure of Jump with the emergence of new video [...]

  • Relix Live Music Conference

    Relix Live Music Conference Puts Spotlight on Gender Parity, Privacy

    The third annual Relix Live Music Conference took place at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl earlier this week. The two-day confab, which featured panels and Q&As by executives from such companies as Live Nation, Q Prime, SiriusXM, Bowery Presents, Glassnote Music, Shorefire Media and Splice, among many others, offered a fascinating and honest look at the [...]

  • Spotify Tests 'Car Thing' Audio Adapter

    Spotify Starts Testing In-Car Hardware

    Spotify is carefully taking a first step into the consumer hardware space: The company has begun to test a new in-car device that lets users access music and podcasts with voice commands, it revealed in a blog post Friday morning. “Car Thing,” as the device is being called for now, is only being tested in [...]

  • Hannah-Hart-BuzzFeed-Tasty-Edible-History

    BuzzFeed's Tasty Taps Hannah Hart for Food-History Show on Facebook Watch

    YouTube star and food fanatic Hannah Hart is combining her passions for cuisine and history in a new series for BuzzFeed’s Tasty on Facebook Watch. The eight-episode show, “Edible History,” premieres Sunday, May 19, at 8 a.m PT, on BuzzFeed’s Tasty Presents show page on Facebook Watch, with episodes released weekly. In each episode (7-12 [...]

  • YouTube Music

    Songza Co-Founders Have Left YouTube Music Ahead of Google Play Music Shut-Down

    The three co-founders of Songza, a music curation startup acquired by Google in  2014, have left YouTube Music, Variety has learned. Former Songza CEO Elias Roman, former chief product officer Elliott Breece and former chief operating officer Peter Asbill all quietly transitioned to new positions at Google’s startup incubator Area 120 in March. A YouTube [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content