On Thursday, April 20, 2023, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced that BuzzFeed News, the Pulitzer Prize-winning news division of BuzzFeed.com, will be shut down as part of a new round of layoffs that will reduce the company’s workforce by around 15%. The company is looking to make substantial redundancies across the business, which has been hit by the pandemic, a troubled stock market listing, a tough economy, a declining stock market, a slowdown in digital advertising, and changing audience habits. BuzzFeed News won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for its reporting on China’s detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslims.
Peretti cited numerous challenges that the company has faced in recent years, explaining the reason for the changes being made. The company can no longer afford to sustain BuzzFeed News as a separate entity. Instead, the company will concentrate on HuffPost, which it acquired in 2020, as its news brand because it is “profitable with a loyal direct front page audience.” BuzzFeed and HuffPost will both offer “a number of select roles” to BuzzFeed News staff.
Peretti admitted to having “overinvested” in BuzzFeed News and being slow to acknowledge that major platforms wouldn’t provide the necessary distribution or financial support to sustain premium, free journalism tailored for social media. He regretted not holding the company to “higher standards for profitability” and exhausted many other cost-saving measures to preserve as many jobs as possible, including cutting costs and closing physical offices.
Other similar online news sites, including Vox and Vice, that boomed during the 2010s have also struggled as audiences and advertisers moved away from social media and towards video services such as YouTube and TikTok. Insider, formerly known as Business Insider, also announced it was making substantial job cuts on Thursday.
BuzzFeed staff learned about the job losses after being invited to dial into a conference call hosted from a room called “Doomsday”, in line with the company’s tradition of having quirky names for its meeting rooms.
As part of the changes, Peretti announced that two leading executives have made the decision to leave the company. BuzzFeed’s financial challenges reflect the challenges of the online news industry. At one point in 2014, Disney considered buying the site for about $1bn, but no deal could be agreed. The company eventually listed on the stock exchange seven years later, since when its share price has collapsed, with the business currently valued at less than $100m.