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‘Dumbest Move In The History Of Digital Media’: How Bob Iger’s Attempt To Buy BuzzFeed Tanked

Bob Iger Buzzfeed dead deal Disney

BuzzFeed is one of the most clickable places on the internet for listicles, highlighting hilarious internet content, and providing digestible news to an audience with dwindling attention spans. In 2013, Disney wanted in on that in terms of a mutually beneficial partnership.

Former BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith uses his new book, Traffic, to discuss the mega-merger that never happened.

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Ben Smith BuzzFeed Book Traffic

The Washington Post

The Walt Disney Company is the behemoth of America’s entertainment and media industry, and BuzzFeed stood to profit from funding, advertising revenue, and brand recognition. The Walt Disney Company, on the other hand, needed to catch up with how to communicate with audiences in a quick and modern way. ABC News, owned by the Walt Disney Company, was becoming stale and wanted to attract a younger audience.

Basically, Disney needed to conquer its place on the internet. A $600 million deal would create “online only” modernized Disney characters amongst other things. They met at Disney’s Burbank studios, and BuzzFeed’s representatives were enticed by a chance to learn from Disney CEO Bob Iger, calling him the “most successful CEO in modern media.”

Bob Iger The Walt Disney Company CEO BuzzFeed Deal

Disney

Some were worried that Disney’s stifling corporate culture would hurt their independence, but others felt it was too good an offer to pass up. The deal was supposedly a “no brainer” and was all set to go through with money negotiated and hands shaken, but one of the partners decided that he just couldn’t do it.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti decided that the thing he cared most about was his and his employee’s freedom within the company. He admitted to Iger that his “heart wasn’t in it,” just as celebrations of the merger were about to begin. Bob Iger was reportedly livid and blindsided, already thinking everything was a done deal. Iger’s words were “F— him, he loses, that company will never be worth what it would have been worth with us.”

Jonah Peretti BuzzFeed CEO Disney deal

Jonah Peretti/BuzzFeed

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Turns out, Iger was right. Peretti made a mistake that author Ben Smith calls the “dumbest in the history of digital media.” Today, BuzzFeed is struggling, closing it news department just this week. Social media didn’t completely monopolize the internet like they had thought, and it was way too late for Disney.

The deal ended up being a train wreck for Bob Iger and Disney short term, but an even bigger disaster for BuzzFeed Inc. long term.

Read the full excerpt of Ben Smith’s book from Variety.

About Lana Porter

Lana has never lost a Disney Trivia night. Maybe it’s the hundreds of times she’s been to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, her love for Disney’s ’90’s era hand-animated musicals, or the fact that she’s often likened to cartoon characters, but Disney and its magic have a special place in her heart. Her favorite Disney experiences include the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, eating Mickey Bars on the PeopleMover, and crying during the Magic Kingdom fireworks show. One day she hopes to be chosen as the rebel spy on Star Tours. When Lana isn’t Park Hopping, she’s at home reading books of all topics, watching her favs on Disney+, or snuggling her two cats, which she swears are not named after Disney characters. She loves surprising people with her knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but admits she is still catching up with Star Wars. She is happy to combine her excitement for writing with her love for Disney-style storytelling and share what she can with the world!