BuzzFeed News closes shop and layoffs 180 staff members

BuzzFeed is shutting down BuzzFeed News because it is not able to turn a profit, according to a memo CEO Jonah Peretti sent to company staff Thursday. The digital publisher is laying off 15% of its employees, or about 180 people, across BuzzFeed News and other divisions.

Going forward, BuzzFeed will concentrate its news efforts in a single profitable news organization — HuffPost, which it acquired from Verizon in 2020, per Peretti’s memo. The company’s flagship site will remain in place.

“While layoffs are occurring across nearly every division, we’ve determined that the company can no longer continue to fund BuzzFeed News as a standalone organization,” Peretti wrote.

BuzzFeed News launched in 2012 under then-editor in chief Ben Smith. In the memo, Peretti said, “I made the decision to overinvest in BuzzFeed News because I love their work and mission so much. This made me 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.”

HuffPost is “a brand that is profitable with a highly engaged, loyal audience that is less dependent on social platforms,” than BuzzFeed News, according to Peretti. (Read the full memo below.)

Peretti also wrote, “we will bring more innovation to clients in the form of creators, AI and cultural moments that can only happen across BuzzFeed, Complex, HuffPost, Tasty and First We Feast.” According to a BuzzFeed spokesperson, no jobs are being replaced by AI. The company recently started using AI to assist in creating some content, including quizzes, and Peretti said the technology would become “part of our core business.”

Alongside the shutdown of BuzzFeed News, chief revenue officer Edgar Hernandez and COO Christian Baesler are leaving the company. BuzzFeed president Marcela Martin will assume responsibility for all revenue functions effective immediately.

According to a BuzzFeed rep, there are ongoing discussions about the future of, but all of BuzzFeed News work will be preserved and available within the BuzzFeed network. The company also is working to ensure any stories currently in the works from the BuzzFeed News team will be published and promoted on BuzzFeed properties as well. and HuffPost will be offering roles to a number of BuzzFeed News journalists to match areas where they’re interested in expanding coverage, the rep added.

Karolina Waclawiak, who was named BuzzFeed News’ editor in chief in June 2022, wrote in a tweet, “It was an honor and privilege to lead ⁦‪@BuzzFeedNews‬⁩. I’ve spent 7+ years of my career working alongside the most talented and generous people in journalism. We changed the culture. We changed laws. Hire them all.” 

Waclawiak also shared a portion of the note she sent to the BuzzFeed News staff: “Over the last 8 months we had been successfully diversifying our revenue ― but it wasn’t enough to overcome the larger financial challenges within the company and monetization changes with social platforms like Facebook. I’m deeply sorry about that. I wanted more for you than what is happening now. You deserve better. There is no reason this company couldn’t have built a business around BuzzFeed News far earlier.” She continued, “And while I believe this outcome was avoidable for BuzzFeed News, it’s indicative of a larger crisis facing journalism today. It’s deeply concerning that it seems the only way to have a sustainable news business is to put journalism behind a paywall. The implication is that only people who can afford to pay for it will have access to high-quality information while everyone else will need to parse through the rampant misinformation that is widely shared across social platforms. The consequences of this are dire.”

Source: Variety

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