Alumni Profile: Neetzan Zimmerman ’07
by Nanette Cormier
Neetzan Zimmerman ’07 has a knack for knowing what people find interesting. The 32-year-old editor-in-chief at the mobile app start-up Whisper has been called a “viral phenom” and even a “machine” for his success in generating Internet traffic, increasing page views, and unleashing viral content. The Wall Street Journal’s Farhad Manjoo wrote that Zimmerman “may be the most popular blogger working on the Web today.”
Why is he so good? He has a keen ability to know which videos, photos, and news stories have the potential to be clicked on, read, and shared by the most people. He’s the one who surmises why some videos about cute cats take off and others don’t. When he left his position at Gawker Media, an online media company and blog network, to join Whisper, Zimmerman’s daily posts were generating more than 30 million page views a month.
Zimmerman says his UMass Boston education served as the launch pad for his career, which grew from a job he had at a Boston publishing company as a student. After graduation, the political science and communications major started a company called the Daily What, where he honed his talent and intuition for knowing “what” Internet content will compel the most people to read and share. His own writing and posts have also gained a wide audience.
“I knew what a great education I could get at UMass Boston—it was a Harvard education at a public price,” he says. “It was comforting to be around so many people filled with such passion.”
Zimmerman is excited about his role at Whisper, which is an application that enables people to share opinions, ideas, and epiphanies that “they’d never post on Facebook.” He will analyze the content for trends and themes and try to make meaning out of a massive amount of unfiltered material. After that the “viral mastermind” will pump it out to the blogosphere.
The UMass Boston alumnus loves his work because the Internet inspires him to contribute new content. “It’s like I am writing a love letter to the Internet every day,” he says.