When I started work at BuzzFeed on midnight last January 1, we were already the best at something: Creating emotionally driven, image-heavy content people want to share. Matt Stopera’s Most Powerful Images of 2011 had been the most popular post in our history.
But Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO, had realized that the social space had expanded to include not only the emotionally resonant items people share on Facebook, but also the hard news, compelling features, lists, humor, and analysis that thrive on Twitter. Americans were spending less time finding content from portals and search engines, and more from their friends, and Jonah made a huge gamble that BuzzFeed could vastly broaden its mandate.
A year later, it seems obvious that he was right. Our political coverage, which operated on the assumption — truer, at first, in politics than anywhere else — that Twitter is your front page, made a big impact in the ultra-competitive presidential campaign by doing what great reporters love to: Report and write. And since January 1, 2012, when Matt Stopera and Zeke Miller shared a room in the Hotel Fort Des Moines, we’ve learned enormous amounts about the substance and form of social journalism.
Our verticals have been rooted in this same reality of social news. FWD covers the new human reality of tech, providing crucial — and shareable — insight on how life is lived on Twitter and Facebook and how those services are used. Shift has gone deep into how women live their lives online and off, and taken seriously the year’s breakthrough social platform, Pinterest. Our Sports vertical has pioneered a new visual, GIF-heavy form of storytelling that merges the best of sportswriting and broadcasting.
Successive waves of of verticals we launched this year drilled down on some of the things people love to learn about, and to share, from food to nostalgia (to food nostalgia!), celebrity, music, LGBT, and — naturally — animals. We have filled in deep expertise and authority on everything from playlists — BuzzFeed Music’s is one of Rdio’s top playlists — to recipes for cooking everything from doves to jello shots. We have made the case for Ryan Gosling, for Corgis and cats; and I’ve learned along the way just how hard the deceptively simple, emotionally direct posts like 33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed In You are to make.
We’ve also taken on a new medium in a big way: This fall, we lured the online video genius Ze Frank aboard to teach us — and millions of other people — how to trade Halloween candy, and how to navigate Thanksgiving.
Here’s a quick trip through some of the best stuff we made this year, a crazy mix of content that we hope will look like your Facebook feed on a very good day.