Is PlayBuzz the next Buzzfeed?
It's the 29th most popular website in the U.S. and the seventh most-read on mobile. Meet Shaul Olmert, the man behind PlayBuzz.
You may not have heard of tech entrepreneur Shaul Olmert, but his two-year-old website is now the 29th most popular website in America. His small Tel Aviv-based company runs PlayBuzz.com, a platform that allows anyone to create viral-style content such as top-10 lists, quizzes, polls and more.
"PlayBuzz is the first company I have founded and run," Olmert said. "And now I'm not sure what took me so long. The entrepreneurial quest is the most fun I have ever had."
In an interview with From The Grapevine, the 39-year-old CEO shared the secrets of his success.
From the Grapevine: What makes you a good CEO?
Shaul Olmert: This is my first tenure as CEO. Sometimes I miss having someone to report to and switch responsibility to, but all in all I feel at home in this new role. I would like to think of the CEO's role as that of a football coach or an orchestra's conductor. My job is to find the best players and try to sync their moves together. At the end of the day, they are the ones producing the music or scoring goals, I am just there to wave my arms, shout some instructions and keep them in harmony.
How did you get the idea for PlayBuzz?
PlayBuzz was conceived out of our acknowledgement that today's (and tomorrow's) web audience is too A.D.D. to consume long-form information. We looked for short, catchy, engaging experiences that are social by nature, which will allow content owners to convey information and create engagement in a format suitable for the patience-less, vibrant, jumpy, 140-characters generation.
Describe how it works.
PlayBuzz enables every publisher, blogger, brand or end-user to easily author playful content items using predefined templates. Content can then be embedded on the content owner's website, shared on social media and featured on PlayBuzz.com. Over 5,000 publishers and brands are using the PlayBuzz platform to create and embed content items. These include major publishers such as NBC, AOL and USA Today, brands such as Target, Hulu and Jamba Juice and countless other great websites and apps.
What are the main differences between PlayBuzz and BuzzFeed? What sets it apart?
There are several great publishers of playful content online such as 9Gag, BuzzFeed, Distractify and Imgur. Unlike these publishers, we are not a stand-alone publisher, but rather a network. We actually work with several of them and would love to empower the others as well. So despite some inevitable similarities in some of our content formats, we don't view ourselves as competitors to these companies, but rather as potential partners that share a similar philosophy regarding usage habits and the future of content publishing. Our network is geared to help every website be more successful at what it does, which is why we got so quickly adopted by so many industry leaders.
Can you talk about your Israeli roots?
I was born and raised in Jerusalem, and later lived in Germany, London and New York. I studied for undergrad in Germany and moved to New York for my Masters. After more than a decade abroad, I like to joke that I tried to escape even further away from Jerusalem, so I moved to Tel Aviv. These two cities are 40 miles apart but have a bitter cultural rivalry – like New York and Boston. I returned to Israel 10 years later after several years of professional career in New York, when my wife (whom I met at NYU despite both of us being from Israel) and I decided that our children – we have three – need to grow up close to their extended family.
What do you love most about Israel?
There's so much to love about Israel. If I have to focus on one aspect of Israel's greatness, I'd talk about how bluntly direct people are. People speak their mind, spill their hearts and tell it like it is. That is sometimes perceived as rough by outsiders, but at least with Israelis, you know where you stand rather than having to read between the lines.
What are your goals for the future?
My goal is to make PlayBuzz one of the global leaders in content publishing. Our focus for 2014 and 2015 will be on expanding our product offering to include a wide array of content formats, so our partners can continue and innovate with their great content. The rapid changes in the industry and high speed of innovation makes it imperative that we never sit back to enjoy our current success, but rather continue to re-invent and innovate all the time. So far, we are heading there in giant steps, but there is still a very long way to go.
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