Who to Watch at Chicago Ideas Week 2012: Jonah Peretti

There's a lot to wrap your mind around with the approaching Chicago Ideas Week, the weeklong invasion of super-smart and super-influential folks taking place at venues all over town from Oct. 8 to 14.

We're helping with a series of speaker profiles designed to highlight the speakers who will benefit you, the Chicago entrepreneur. There are just over 100-plus speakers announced so far, and more to come.

In this profile: Jonah Peretti

Accolades: The New York Times called him a “viral marketing hotdog,” and while I’m not really sure what the heck that means, what’s less debatable is that Peretti founded the wildly popular website BuzzFeed and was the co-founder the Huffington Post.

Why you should care: Everyone likes to take sniper shots at carps in barrels about how awful the media is doing lately, and it’s tough to blame them. The media is dying. (There’s an entire Twitter feed dedicated to it, even.) Everything is going online, but nobody has yet really cracked how to best approach it. Some of the bigger media outlets have made rather clumsy overtures into the territory, but concepts like pay gates are just a surefire way of alienating your audience and also telegraphing that you have no clue how to run a media outlet online other than by clinging onto the “hallowed” old ways.

BuzzFeed is unique, which is a word I almost never use, but it is completely appropriate here. Peretti isn’t a wunderkind -- he’s 38 -- and understands how the Internet works. Being an entrepreneur is tough enough, but making an editorial-driven site succeed is nearly impossible, even with ads. Whether you want to hear about an underdog succeed again and again or are merely curious about what goes into making a publication stay afloat on the Internet, Peretti is definitely one to watch and one to listen to.

When you can see him: Oct. 10, Albert Theatre at the Goodman Theatre, 12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

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David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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