BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has slammed the internet as a “flaming dumpster” and admitted digital media has faced significant challenges in the last 12 months.
While he didn’t directly address the redundancies, his comments come several weeks after BuzzFeed was forced to lay off 15 per cent of its workforce as the company battles to achieve profitability.
“The internet is at a real crossroads right now. On one hand it can feel like a flaming dumpster. On the other hind it something we love that brings us joy and that makes us feel connected to other people in the world,” Peretti said, on stage at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
“In this particular moment we are at crossroads and we are really trying to figure out how to hit the right path to help the internet to fulfil its potential and benefit society and to bring people joy and bring people truth.”
He admitted this process has been “hard lately” with many digital media companies, such as BuzzFeed, having to reduce costs and staff numbers.
“A year ago I wrote a memo saying the media is in crisis. Unfortunately, it turned to be true and there has been a lot of troubles in the media industry,” he said.
These troubles aren’t just facing media as a business, but has spread to tech platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, which is impacting the wider society, Peretti argued.
“What’s happened in the last year is the crisis that started in the media has spread to the tech platforms,” he said.
If you think back to a year ago, the tech platforms seemed as if they were all powerful; they weren’t going to have a crisis, they were printing money, there were growing, they were hiring… And their business is still strong, but they are having big problems with the content that lives on their platforms.”
From anti-vaxxers, to trolls to racists, Peretti said tech platforms have little control over the dangerous content being spread.
His solution? For tech platforms to pair with digital media and share some of their burgeoning revenue to enable publications to create more good content to counteract the bad or untruthful.
“We can’t just police bad content, we have to produce good content.”
Peretti remains optimistic about the internet as a whole and said he has seen positive progress in brands playing a bigger role in producing trusted content.
“It’s popular and trendy now to quit social media,” Peretti concluded. “But we can’t give up. We have to keep fighting to make a great internet.”