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BuzzFeed's Growth Czar Is Now Its Publisher

Dao Nguyen, BuzzFeed's data and growth guru, gets a big promotion -- and CEO Jonah Peretti tries redefining "publisher" in the process.

David Bertozzi/BuzzFeed.
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

For the last couple of years, Dao Nguyen has been the person in charge of data and growth at BuzzFeed, which means she has done a very big job very well — the site says it’s now attracting 150 million users a month.

So CEO Jonah Peretti is giving her a bigger task: The 40 year old is now BuzzFeed’s publisher.

That doesn’t mean “publisher” in the traditional sense of the role, Peretti points out in an internal memo you can read below — “She isn’t the heir to a newspaper baron and she won’t be responsible for the business, selling ads or physical newsstand distribution.”

Instead, Nguyen is heading up every part of the company that isn’t editorial, ads or video — “tech, product, data and everything related to our publishing platform,” Peretti writes. That means she’ll now manage more than 100 people — about a sixth of BuzzFeed’s total headcount.

Nguyen’s promotion is interesting because BuzzFeed is interesting. So is Peretti’s insistence on creating new roles with old names: Ze Frank, who oversees BuzzFeed’s booming video unit, runs BuzzFeed’s “Motion Pictures” group.

But Nguyen’s elevation is also worth noting because she is not a white man, and even though it’s 2014, white men dominate the top of most publishing mastheads, even shiny new digital ones. At BuzzFeed, for instance, she shares the top management tier with three other white guys — Frank, Editor in Chief Ben Smith and President Greg Coleman.

Then again, Nguyen isn’t the only woman at BuzzFeed moving up today. Peretti is also bumping up Ashley McCollum, who oversaw biz dev and communications; she is now his chief of staff.

You can read more about the work Nguyen has done at BuzzFeed via this very nice Inc. profile from a couple of months ago. And here’s Peretti’s memo:

Subject: Exciting news

Hello BuzzFeeders,

Thank you all for your tremendous work, the talented team at BuzzFeed is the primary reason for our success. Today I’m thrilled to announce that two team members will be taking a bigger role at the company.

Dao Nguyen has been promoted to the newly created role of Publisher.

As Publisher of BuzzFeed, Dao will oversee tech, product, data and everything related to our publishing platform. Dao’s team will include Mark Wilkie, who will continue as CTO leading tech, Chris Johanesen who will continue as VP of Product, and a new head of Data & Growth to fill Dao’s previous role. This new structure will allow us to move faster, coordinate across the organization, and accelerate our investment in tech, product, and data science.

We are redefining the role of Publisher to reflect the way the world works today where technology is the core of publishing. This is very different from the traditional role where the title is inherited within a family business, like the Sulzbergers at the New York Times, or in the magazine world, where the Publisher is often the person responsible for selling advertising and overseeing business operations.

Dao is a new type of Publisher. She isn’t the heir to a newspaper baron and she won’t be responsible for the business, selling ads or physical newsstand distribution. Instead, she’ll lead publishing for the social web, in the most modern sense, where data science, the CMS, technology, and a deep understanding of social networks, mobile devices, and digital video matter most. If publishing is “the activity of making information available to the general public,” then I’m confident Dao will become the very best publisher in a rapidly changing industry where technology and data science are the key to success. Dao has been a key player and innovator at BuzzFeed, and I’m so happy she’s accepted this role as the first Publisher of BuzzFeed.

Dao is our Publisher, Ben is our Editor, Greg is our President, and Ze runs Motion Pictures. Respectively, they lead teams focused on publishing, editorial, business, and video. It is a simple, powerful structure that will allow us to do great things in the future.

The other team member taking a bigger role is Ashley McCollum who will become my Chief of Staff. Her new responsibilities will include helping shape strategy for company-wide initiatives, acting as an advisor to me and the executive team, and working closely with me on new projects. Ashley will continue to run communications where she has done excellent work leading a talented team. Ashley has gained the respect of many here and worked closely with every team in this company, and she is the perfect person for this crucial new role.

Jamie Urso, who previously held the title, will continue to secretly run the company and assist me in a new role as Chief of Stuff. She will work closely with Joel and me on cultural projects, contribute to the new Service group with the focus on making life at BuzzFeed increasingly awesome, and continue as our cruise director at Brews.

Please join me in congratulating Dao, Ashley, and Jamie!

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