This Felix Salmon interview with Jonah Peretti is terrific. Tracing Peretti's broad and meandering background gives many hints as to how he has come to be the reigning king of viral content, and his interdisciplinary explorations play no small part in his pattern recognition.
[I had no idea until I read this interview that Peretti's sister is Chelsea Peretti (most recently of Brooklyn Nine Nine fame). I saw her open for Sarah Silverman at the Largo in Los Angeles a few times.]
On the origin of the Huffington Post:
On reality TV:
FS: John Herrman [then of BuzzFeed, now of The Awl] wrote that piece about headlines.
JP: John wrote a piece saying the Internet provides many headlines for every article, sometimes better than what the author wrote, and that there just shouldn’t be headlines on articles. Headlines are generated on Twitter and all these different places and it is something that we think a lot about. What do people add to a story when they share it? In some cases it’s better than the headline that our team wrote and in some cases shows why content matters to them. Because you say, “I’m sharing this” and explain why you’re sharing it.