Students abuzz about Austin Hunt ‘13
Alumnus speaks about career at BuzzFeed
By Marie Dunn-Harris
Like many first-year college students, Austin Hunt ’13 didn’t know exactly what career path he wanted to take after receiving his diploma.
As a sports management major, Hunt did not have a clear vision of what he wanted to do in life. But after some unique opportunities came his way, Hunt ended up finding the perfect career at internet media company, BuzzFeed.
Hunt spent his freshman, sophomore and junior years trying to figure out where his focus should be. He even switched his major to telecommunications.
“At the time, the only realistic dream I had was to be a play-by-play announcer,” Hunt said.
Hunt had a major interest in the internet and social media, but he wasn’t really sure how to make a career out of it.
“I told my family that I wanted to get paid to tweet and they all laughed,” he said. “My mother buried her hands in her face.”
During his junior year, Hunt was hired at the Cookie Jar in Bowling Green as a delivery driver. The small business was fairly new and did not have an online presence. Hunt came up with a marketing strategy and pitched his ideas to the owners about how to reach their customers through social media.
“The core of my strategy was relatively simple. Put a photo of delicious cookies with the hashtag cookie of the day in front of as many eyeballs as possible. It worked,” he said.
For the first time in his career, Hunt had something to be proud of.
“I successfully created a marketing campaign strictly through the use of Twitter and they paid me to do it,” he said. “I got paid to tweet.”
Soon after his success with Cookie Jar, Hunt landed a position as Music and Tech Content Producer with the online news site Byline Beat.
“It was an incredible experience that I could never have gotten inside the classroom,” he said. “I learned how to write for the internet as opposed to newspapers and I collaborated with other writers from all over the country in a multitude of subjects.”
In early 2013, Byline Beat ended operations and Hunt was out of a job. He applied for hundreds more, and after countless interviews, he was the final candidate for jobs at Mashable, NBC and BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed asked him to create a community post to show what he likes to write about.
“I wrote about 23 amazing WWE-inspired Halloween costumes,” he said.
A few weeks later, Hunt was offered the internship and moved to New York City. Two of his highest traffic posts came during that internship period.
“One was when I wrote about Apple announcing the new emojis, which was read by 1.6 million people,” he said. “The other was a quiz about the ‘Boy Meets World’ characters.”
Two months into his internship, Hunt was writing breaking news stories. He covered the 2014 Winter Olympics, missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the Ukraine Russian conflict.
“I was soon being respected as a colleague, not just an intern,” he said.
Soon after, Hunt was offered a full-time job as breaking news reporter. He’s had several titles, including writer, reporter, social media editor, video producer and now curation editor.
“We’re in charge of managing the main BuzzFeed homepage, BuzzFeed News social accounts, and the News App,” he said.
Since 2014 when Hunt started at BuzzFeed, the company has grown from 400 employees to now 1,600 with 10 offices worldwide. He is surprised at how much the company has changed in the two years that he’s been there.
“Much of what I do on a day-to-day basis at BuzzFeed didn’t even exist when I was in college,” he said. “Students today have to be ready for change.”
Even though he was undecided during his first few semesters, Hunt credits his time at BGSU as the foundation to help him learn where he should concentrate his career focus.
“I built relationships with faculty that I still hold onto today,” Hunt said. “By having opportunities outside of the classroom, I was able to branch out to get experiences that I never would have gotten anywhere else.”