BuzzFeed to close news division, cut staff

In addition to the news division, layoffs would take place in its business, content, tech and administrative teams.

The entrance to BuzzFeed in New York, US
The Pulitzer Prize-winning digital media company has been hurt by plummeting digital advertising, among other problems [File: Ted Shaffrey/AP Photo]

Pulitzer Prize-winning digital media company BuzzFeed will shut down its news division and cut another 15 percent of its staff across the company, adding to layoffs made earlier this year.

BuzzFeed has approximately 1,200 total employees, according to a recent regulatory filing.

In a memo sent to staff, co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti said that in addition to the news division, layoffs would take place in its business, content, tech and administrative teams. BuzzFeed is also considering making job cuts in international markets.

Peretti said in a memo to staff that he “made the decision to overinvest” in the news division, but failed to recognise early enough that the financial support needed to sustain operations was not there.

Digital advertising has plummeted this year, cutting into the profitability of major tech companies from Google to Facebook. Waves of layoffs have rolled through the tech industry and more are expected.

“I’ve learned from these mistakes, and the team moving forward has learned from them as well,” Peretti wrote. “We know that the changes and improvements we are making today are necessary steps to building a better future.”

Christian Baesler, the company’s chief operating officer, and Edgar Hernandez, its chief revenue officer, are also leaving after they assist with the restructuring.

The company will now have one remaining news brand, HuffPost, Peretti wrote.

Journalists who previously worked at BuzzFeed lamented the end of the news division.

“I’m heartsick about it, and proud of the great journalism we did when I was there and after I left,” said Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor from 2011 to 2020 and now editor-in-chief of Semafor.

Smith made the controversial decision in 2017 to publish a “dossier” of information about then-President Donald Trump, even though many outlets avoided it as unreliable and even BuzzFeed said there were serious reasons to doubt the allegations. He wrote then that “we have always erred on the side of publishing”.

BuzzFeed’s shutdown “really marks the end of the marriage between news and social media”, said Smith, author of the book Traffic, a forthcoming history of that era.

BuzzFeed said Thursday that all of the news division’s work will be preserved and available within the BuzzFeed network. The company is also working to make sure that any stories currently in progress will be published and promoted on BuzzFeed properties.

The announcement comes just a few months after BuzzFeed said that it would be cutting 12 percent of its workforce, citing worsening economic conditions.

BuzzFeed, founded by Peretti in 2006 and initially known for listicles and online quizzes, had established itself as a serious contender in the news business, winning a Pulitzer in 2021 for international reporting.

But over the years, advertisers, on which BuzzFeed relies, have broadly pulled back on spending to address rising costs. Spending on advertising is typically among the most elastic items in a company’s budget and is often the first place to see cuts.

Source: AP