“Cute animals deserve respect.”
BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti told the audience at South by Southwest that last year. And he should know.
His site is investing in original reporting and traditional journalism, but the newsroom has grown on the backbone of truly viral posts which sustain BuzzFeed from a monetary perspective. Many of those viral posts have to do with cute animals.
For example, one article titled “Basset Hounds Running” amassed 1.2 million page views.
Because of its highly entertaining animal posts, BuzzFeed has gotten a reputation for producing pieces of “fluff” journalism rather than “real” journalism. In other words, it’s great at culling together intriguing photos of animals doing ridiculous things, but it has yet to establish itself as a trusted source of news.
TheDodo, another site Peretti is involved with, just launched. Instead of having to make an excuse for its animal posts (like BuzzFeed sometimes has to do) it’s embracing animals right from the get-go.
Today, TheDodo went live with funding from Greycroft, Softbank Capital, Sterling Equities, RRE and a personal investment from Oak Investment Partners’ Fred Harmon. It’s being run by Izzie Lerer, whose father Ken co-founded The Huffington Post with Jonah Peretti and whose brother, Ben, co-founded Thrillist. The Lerers also started a venture arm, Lerer Ventures, which has invested in 185 startups over the past few years. Peretti is an advisor. Izzie is joined by Salon’s former editor-in-chief, Kerry Lauerman.
The Dodo is the first website built entirely on another Lerer Ventures startup, RebelMouse. This makes it easy for The Dodo to pull in cute animal posts from social media and takes pressure off The Dodo to produce original content, which is more expensive.
At first glance, The Dodo is cute overload. But Lerer says there will be substance to some of the stories.
“Caring about animals in the past has often been dismissed as overly sentimental or radical, but now the whole movement is moving mainstream,” Izzie Lerer justifies her site in a press release. “There’s a growing readiness and willingness to listen to people speak about issues concerning animals, and The Dodo will provide a home for these kinds of conversations.”
In short, you’ll never see animals being mistreated on The Dodo. Instead, it’s a place that celebrates pets.
It’s tempting to think: why does the web need yet another destination for cute animal photos?
But when you stop and mull it over, it’s brilliant. The Dodo is setting itself up to be BuzzFeed but without the baggage of having to be a “real” news and journalism site. It can celebrate animals, and celebrate all the viral traffic that comes with it.
Not a believer? Fine. Then try not to read one of their articles:
Here’s what it looks like:
*Ken Lerer is personally invested in Business Insider