Buzzfeed Co-Founder Urges Creatives to Embrace Data

Screen International, October 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Buzzfeed Co-Founder Urges Creatives to Embrace Data


Buzzfeed's John S. Johnson kicks off Power to the Pixel Cross Media Forum

Buzzfeed co-founder John S. Johnson urged filmmakers and other creatives to embrace data and optimization when developing their projects in a keynote at the Power to the Pixel Cross Media Forum (Oct 7-10).

"The train is leaving the station and you need to be on it for all our sakes. You need to embrace it, make it your own and make great work," Johnson told delegates at London's BFI Southbank.

Aside from collaborating on social news site Buzzfeed, Johnson is also executive director of New York-based research body The Harmony Institute, which explores the social impact of entertainment media.

The organisation was born, explained Johnson, out of his experiences at Buzzfeed.

"When we were starting Buzzfeed, I was really struck that all the issue driven content producers we were talking to were really hungry to better understand the impact their work was having in a real way on the social issues they were addressing," said Johnson.

"It was sort of fascinating to me, given the billions of dollars being spent on cause marketing and issue driven features and television, that we were still as an industry measuring our impact through Facebook likes," he continued. "When I dug into it more, I discovered that going beyond that coming was a really tough data science and social science problem."

The issue prompted Johnson to go back to college and enrol in a quantitative research programme.

"It was very new to me because I was a filmmaker by trade and found a group of people who were equally obsessed with this juicy cheeseburger of a big problem for media and we formed this institute and started working with large foundations, like MTV, who were making significant investments around issues and wanted to understand how they were doing. …

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