If Arianna Huffington is the Madonna of the media industry, what does that make Jonah Peretti, cofounder of burgeoning meme factory BuzzFeed? Prince, perhaps? (In keeping with the ’80s references, of course.)
Ms. Huffington, who founded The Huffington Post with the help of Mr. Peretti, was so excited to hear the nerd king’s presentation, which directly followed her own, that she announced offhandedly that she was changing her schedule so that she could stay. And Mr. Peretti, whose slideshow was chock full of cute animal photos and other humorous BuzzFeed absurdities, did not disappoint. (Though it was apparently quite similar to the one he did at Ad Age Digital a few weeks ago.)
The post-lunch session of the Guardian Activate Summit kicked off with an interview between Guardian U.S. editor in chief Janine Gibson and a woman whom Ms. Gibson called “the Madonna of our industry:” why Arianna Huffington, of course. Ms. Huffington, who donned a smart navy blue blazer and a perfectly coifed blond bob, introduced herself with some opening remarks about what she called the “fetishization of social.”
“The fetishization of social is celebrating something going ‘trending’ or going ‘viral’ without asking what it is that’s going trending or viral,” said Ms. Huffington. “We all need to do a better job of asking those questions, otherwise we’re going to find ourselves in the same dangerous area that mainstream media have found themselves in, where everything is breaking news. Donald Trump endorsing Mitt Romney, Balloon Boy, all these things.”
We found this comment especially pointed coming from Ms. Huffington, as The Huffington Post just tweeted, “Miley Cyrus saves a dog left outside of Walmart,” a piece that has all the classic elements of a viral story (major celebrity + cute animal + feel-good component) without any of the explanation. We really do need to be asking why Miley Cyrus’ dog saving abilities are going viral, wouldn’t you agree?
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Josh Miller, the precocious 21-year-old Princeton dropout behind Branch, one of tech’s most buzzed-about new startups, took The Observer on a tour of the Obvious Corporation, a growing operation helmed by the cofounders of Twitter that advises and invests in an elite set of fledgling tech companies, Branch among them.
The San Francisco office radiated industrial California coziness, with tall windows and exposed pipes, dark grey walls and a fridge overflowing with Vitamin Water. Mr. Miller, who is tall and insouciant, with the laid-back linguistic tenor of one who spent his childhood in Santa Monica, bustled about the office, seemingly unthreatened by the fact that he is both much younger and less experienced than the majority of Obvious employees.
“Check this out!” he called from a breezy conference room with a panoramic view of downtown San Francisco. He pointed to a wet bar fully stocked with top-shelf bottles. “You know, I’m just out of college, so sometimes I’m, like, afraid to drink any of this because it’s so expensive! It’s like, where’s the Franzia?” he joked, referring to the cheap boxed wine favored by destitute college students.