BuzzFeed News is shutting down, the once-iconic media brand’s founder and CEO Jonah Peretti announced in a company-wide memo on Thursday.
“We are reducing our workforce by approximately 15% today across our Business, Content, Tech and Admin teams, and beginning the process of closing BuzzFeed News,” Peretti wrote in the email.
The CEO also told staff that if they had received the email, “you are not impacted by today’s changes.” Additionally, besides the shuttering of BuzzFeed News, Peretti said that the company’s CRO Edgar Hernandez and COO Christian Baesler had also decided to leave BuzzFeed. Both would be exiting within the next few weeks.
BuzzFeed News had long been on life-support. The company-wide layoffs and elimination of the news operation come just months after BuzzFeed had laid off 12 percent of its staff in a cost-cutting measure. That penny-pinching move, which Peretti said was necessary due to an “ongoing audience shift to vertical video,” came nine months after Peretti had bought out the majority of the BuzzFeed News staff and sacked the editor-in-chief.
Peretti also framed this most recent bloodbath at BuzzFeed within the media industry trend of layoffs, stating that the company has “faced more challenges than I can count” in recent years while blaming the pandemic, a “tech recession, a tough economy,” and a fading stock market.
At the same time, the CEO also pointed the finger at himself for his “decision to overinvest in BuzzFeed News because I love their work and mission so much.” He wrote that this made him “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.”
He also noted that BuzzFeed and HuffPost, which Peretti acquired in November 2020, would open up some “select roles for members of BuzzFeed News,” adding that the new jobs would be “aligned with those division’s business goals.”
Furthermore, Peretti told the remaining staff that he would be focusing more of the company’s energy going forward on AI. “We will empower our editorial teams at all of our brands to do the very best creative work and build an interface where that work can be repacked and brought to advertisers more effectively,” he said. “And 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.”
The news came on the same day that Insider, another digital media outlet that has been experimenting with AI, decided to slash 10 percent of its workforce.
Ben Smith, the former BuzzFeed News EIC who now runs the media startup Semafor, told The Daily Beast “I’m really sad about” the news that the news division was shutting down.
David Mack, a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News, confirmed that the site was done, tweeting “what a ride!!! 8.5 years!!!” Tech reporter Katie Notopoulos, meanwhile, snarked on Twitter that “this stunt marketing for ben smith’s new book is really in poor taste imo.”