BuzzFeed to Shut Down News Division and Lay Off 15% of Workforce Amid Financial Struggles
BuzzFeed, the popular digital media company, has announced that it will be shutting down BuzzFeed News, its serious news division, along with laying off 15% of its workforce, or around 180 employees. The decision was announced by BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who cited financial difficulties as the reason for the move. In a memo to employees, Peretti said that he had overinvested in BuzzFeed News because he loved their work and mission, but that he had been slow to accept that the big platforms like Facebook and Twitter would not provide the distribution or financial support required to support premium, free journalism purpose-built for social media.
Peretti also acknowledged that the company had faced more challenges than he could count in the past few years, including a pandemic, a declining stock market, and a decelerating digital advertising market, and that the company needed to reduce spending and eliminate jobs as a result. He said that while layoffs were occurring across nearly every division, the company could no longer continue to fund BuzzFeed News as a standalone organization.
Peretti further stated that HuffPost and BuzzFeed's flagship site would open a number of roles for BuzzFeed News editors and reporters, and that the company would reduce budgets, open roles, and most other discretionary expenditures. He also admitted that he could have managed these changes better as the CEO of the company, and that the leadership team could have performed better despite these circumstances.
BuzzFeed News was launched in 2012, with longtime New York City political reporter Ben Smith as its editor-in-chief. The news organization won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for a series exposing China’s mass detention of Muslims. Even after Smith left BuzzFeed to join The New York Times in 2020, the online platform still received accolades for their commendable journalism.
BuzzFeed News had been, once, portrayed as a beacon of what was possible in online media—real and meaningful journalistic work existing symbiotically with listicles and silly videos. While small-and-medium-sized newspapers bled out waves of people and institutional memory, BuzzFeed hired. And then BuzzFeed's journalists broke big stories. BuzzFeed was deemed by one venture capital firm to be more valuable than the Washington Post. BuzzFeed was nominated for, and eventually won, a Pulitzer Prize.
BuzzFeed exemplified how modern journalism can balance the serious and the playful. Its witty articles, quizzes, and lists not only attracted the traditional news industry but also incorporated the exceptional qualities of traditional reporting. In 2016, BuzzFeed separated BuzzFeed News as an independent business division from its entertainment coverage. The investigative team at BuzzFeed News, which has now been dismantled, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Chinese detention centers in Xinjiang where Muslims were held.
The decision to shut down BuzzFeed News and lay off employees has sent shockwaves through the digital media industry, with many expressing sadness and concern for the affected employees. The move has also raised questions about the future of serious journalism in the digital age, and whether it can survive without the financial support of big platforms like Facebook and Twitter. As the digital media landscape continues to evolve, it remains to be seen what the future holds for journalism and those who seek to report on the important issues of our time.
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