BuzzFeed News is biting the dust after a decade of operation, during which time the acclaimed digital news website captured a Pulitzer Prize for its reportage on Muslim deportations in China.
News of the platform’s demise was announced on Thursday by BuzzFeed chief executive Jonah Peretti, who told staffers: “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.”
BuzzFeed, the parent company, is cutting 180 employees, which represents 15% of its total workforce. It has also opened discussions with the News Guild, the union to which BuzzFeed’s staffers belong. Peretti said that some of these employees might find jobs at HuffPost, which BuzzFeed acquired in 2020. He also announced that BuzzFeed’s CRO Edgar Hernandez and COO Christian Baesler would be exiting the company.
As Peretti told his staff today: “HuffPost and BuzzFeed Dot Com have signaled that they will open a number of select roles for members of BuzzFeed News. These roles will be aligned with those divisions’ business goals and match the skills and strengths of many of BuzzFeed News’s editors and reporters. Moving forward, we will have a single news brand in HuffPost, which is profitable, with a loyal direct front page audience.”
While Peretti attributed the move to economic conditions, he also admitted his own shortcomings in coping with them, telling staffers: “I also want to be clear: I could have managed these changes better as the CEO of this company and our leadership team could have performed better despite these circumstances.”
“I made the decision to overinvest in BuzzFeed News because I love their work and mission so much,” he added. “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.”
BuzzFeed had initially spent large amounts of money to populate its worldwide news bureaus with top-of-the-line journalists, a model that it moved away from more recently. News about the closure was received with shock and sadness throughout the industry.
Jon Paczkowski, a former BuzzFeed journalist who is now an executive editor at Forbes, called it a “ferocious travesty and a huge loss to journalism.” And Ben Smith, the founding editor-in-chief at BuzzFeed News, was quoted as saying he felt “heartsick.”
“I do think it makes really clear the relationship between news publishers and social media is pretty much over,” he added. After leaving BuzzFeed, Smith became one of the cofounders of Semafor.
In January, BuzzFeed’s stock soared 150% when the company announced that it would be using artificial intelligence to create content, but it soon fell back to its original level. This week’s announcement sent the stock plunging another 20%, to about 72 cents a share. In 2014, Disney considered purchasing the news site for about $1 billion, but nothing came of the proposal.