BuzzFeed has shut down the last of its award-winning News Department, marking the end of a era for the website that was once tipped to revolutionize the industry.
Jonah Peretti, the founder of BuzzFeed News, told his staff that “the company cannot continue to fund BuzzFeed News”, and will be making significant redundancies throughout the company.
He said that the entire company was affected by the pandemic. Other factors included a deteriorating stock market, an economic downturn, a decline in the stock market, changes in audience preferences, and a troubled listing on the stock exchange.
Peretti said that there might not be a business model for online news of high quality. He wrote: “I overinvested in BuzzFeed News, because I loved their work and mission. It was because of this that I found it difficult to accept the fact that big platforms would not provide the financial or distribution support needed to support free, premium journalism designed for social media.
BuzzFeed, which was distributing content through social networks like Facebook and Twitter at the beginning of 2010, raised hundreds of millions from investors. It invested in news reporting in addition to creating viral content like quizzes and list, believing that this would attract advertisers of higher quality.
The company hired hundreds of journalists from around the globe and won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.
Peretti regretted that he did not hold the company to “higher standard for profitability”. He said he had “exhausted other cost-saving methods to preserve as many job as possible”, including cutting costs, and closing physical office.
Vox, Vice and other similar sites that were popular in the 2010s are also struggling as advertisers and audiences move away from social media to video services like YouTube and TikTok. Insider, formerly Business Insider, announced on Thursday that it would be making significant job cuts.
BuzzFeed employees were informed of the job losses via a conference call held in a room named “Doomsday” as part of the company’s custom to name its meeting rooms with quirky names. The company’s former UK staff were informed of their fate in “Black Mirror” when it made redundancies.
Peretti announced that in addition to the closure of BuzzFeed News there would be significant job cuts throughout the company totaling about 180 redundancies. This represents about 15% of its workforce.
Peretti announced two senior executives would be leaving the company as part of its changes.
BuzzFeed owns HuffPost as well, which continues to publish news. However, its coverage has been drastically reduced in recent years. Peretti stated that this site is profitable because its audience is more loyal and visits the homepage directly rather than using social media.
BuzzFeed’s financial struggles reflect those of the online media industry. Disney was interested in buying BuzzFeed for $1bn at one point, but the deal fell through. Seven years after the company was founded, its stock price plummeted. The business is now valued at less that $100m.
Many journalists expressed their sadness at the news, and many reacted online.
BuzzFeed News shuts down less than a month after I watched BuzzFeed journalists receive an award for their exposé of how a private company treated people with disabilities. It can feel like our industry has fallen apart at times,” , a producer for Al Jazeera English, wrote Laila Al Arian.
Tom Namako is an executive editor for NBC News. He tweeted: BuzzFeed News deserved much better and has done so for a very long time.
“Absolutely distraught for @buzzfeednews.” You must understand that some the most talented people from our industry fought to keep it going,” said Sara Yasin a Los Angeles Times managing director.
Kat Tenbarge is a reporter for NBC News who covers technology and culture. She Tweeted that “This shutdown… highlights failures of the internet information economy.” Platforms may not value newsworthy, accurate information. People *want* it.
Other critics targeted Peretti, including Jon Christian, an editor at Futurism. Christian wrote, “Wild” that Peretti “doubles down on AI at the same time he destroys BuzzFeed News, referring to Peretti’s promise to “bring innovation to clients through creators, AI and cultural moments …”
Kate Erbland is an executive editor for IndieWire. She wrote : Is Jonah Peretti also letting go of himself, or …? In his memo, he lists about a half-dozen ways in which he personally screwed BuzzFeed News.”