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BuzzFeed is also considering making job cuts in some international markets. Ted Shaffrey
buzzfeed news

BuzzFeed to close news division and cut 15% of all staff

The company was known for its lists and topical quizzes before launching its Pulitzer Prize-winning news division

AWARD-WINNING DIGITAL media company BuzzFeed will shut down its news division as it cuts another 15% of its staff across the company, adding to layoffs made earlier this year.

In a memo sent to staff, co-founder and chief executive Jonah Peretti said that in addition to the news division, layoffs would take place in its business, content, tech and administrative teams.

The parent company, founded in 2006, first became known for its lists and topical quizzes.

But in late 2011 it founded BuzzFeed News, which won a number of awards and became a symbol of a new wave of internet media companies.

It received plaudits for its investigative work and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for its coverage of the Chinese government’s detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, and it was the publication which controversially published an infamous ‘dossier’ on Donald Trump during his first presidential election campaign.

Distribution on bigger platforms

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.

Peretti also cited the coronavirus pandemic, less capital, a decelerating digital advertising market and “ongoing audience and platform shifts.”

“Dealing with all of these obstacles at once is part of why we’ve needed to make the difficult decisions to eliminate more jobs and reduce spending,” he said.

Peretti added tat he was “slow to accept that the big platforms wouldn’t provide the distribution or financial support required to support premium, free journalism purpose-built for social media”.

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.

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

“I’ve learned from these mistakes, and the team moving forward has learned from them as well,” Mr 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.

In November 2020, the platform headquartered in New York bought the Huffington Post news site from Verizon, without disclosing the amount.

“Moving forward, we will have a single news brand in HuffPost, which is profitable, with a loyal direct front page audience,” Peretti wrote.

He added that the company would offer some jobs at HuffPost and to BuzzFeed News staff members.


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-US 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 Traffic, a forthcoming history of that era.

BuzzFeed said on 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 it would be cutting 12% of its workforce, citing worsening economic conditions.

BuzzFeed, founded by Mr 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.

Additional reporting by AFP

Press Association
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