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BuzzFeed says it will close its news division

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti says he failed to recognise early enough that the financial support needed to sustain the website’s news operations was not there.

April 21, 2023
21 April 2023

Digital media company BuzzFeed will shut down its news division and cut another 15 per cent of its staff across the company, adding to lay-offs made earlier this year.

BuzzFeed has approximately 1200 total employees, according to a recent regulatory filing.

In a memo sent to staff, co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti said that in addition to the news division, lay-offs would take place in its business, content, tech and administrative teams. 

BuzzFeed is also considering making job cuts in international markets.

Peretti said in a memo to staff that he “made the decision to overinvest” in the news division but failed to recognise early enough that the financial support needed to sustain operations was not there.

Digital advertising has plummeted this year, cutting into the profitability of major tech companies from Google to Facebook. 

Waves of lay-offs have rolled through the tech industry and more are expected.

“I’ve learned from these mistakes, and the team moving forward has learned from them as well,” Peretti wrote in the memo.

“We know that the changes and improvements we are making today are necessary steps to building a better future.”

The announcement comes just a few months after BuzzFeed said that it would be cutting 12 per cent of its workforce, citing worsening economic conditions.

Job cuts at were also announced in December.

Christian Baesler, the company’s chief operating officer, and Edgar Hernandez, its chief revenue officer, are also leaving after they assist with the restructuring.

The company will have one remaining news brand, HuffPost, Peretti wrote.

Journalists who previously worked at BuzzFeed lamented the end of the news division.

“I’m heartsick about it, and proud of the great journalism we did when I was there and after I left,” said Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor from 2011 to 2020 and now editor in chief of Semafor.

BuzzFeed’s shutdown “really marks the end of the marriage between news and social media,” said Smith, author of Traffic, a forthcoming history of that era.

BuzzFeed News won its first Pulitzer in 2021, in international reporting, for a series by Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing and Christo Buschek on the infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims.

That same year, BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Journalists were finalists in that category for an expose on the global banking industry’s role in money laundering. 

A former US Treasury Department employee was sentenced to six months in prison this month for leaking the trove of confidential financial reports that served as the basis for the series.

BuzzFeed said Thursday that all of the news division’s work will be preserved and available within the BuzzFeed network. 

The company is also working to make sure that any stories currently in progress will be published and promoted on BuzzFeed properties.

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