BuzzFeed shares plunge 20% on word of news-division shutdown


BuzzFeed Inc. said Thursday it is shutting down BuzzFeed News and laying off about 15% of its workforce as founder and Chief Executive Jonah Peretti said it has faced “more challenges than I can count.”

BuzzFeed stock BZFD, -19.71% initially fell as much as 25% after the news. HuffPost and will open “a number of select roles for members of BuzzFeed News,” Peretti said in a memo to staff. HuffPost, which is profitable and enjoys a “loyal direct front page audience,” will be BuzzFeed’s single news brand.

“We’ve faced more challenges than I can count in the past few years: a pandemic, a fading SPAC market that yielded less capital, a tech recession, a tough economy, a declining stock market, a decelerating digital advertising market and ongoing audience and platform shifts,” Peretti said in the memo.

“Dealing with all of these obstacles at once is part of why we’ve needed to make the difficult decisions to eliminate more jobs and reduce spending.”

The CEO also said he and executives could have “managed these changes better.” The integration of BuzzFeed and Complex, which BuzzFeed bought in 2021 for $300 million, “should have been executed faster and better.”

BuzzFeed went public in December 2021 through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The deal valued BuzzFeed at $1.5 billion.

The acquisition of Complex, then a joint venture between Hearst and Verizon Communications Inc. that catered to millennials and Gen Zers, was a bid to open up other revenue streams and rely less on advertising.

BuzzFeed Inc. bought HuffPost from an unit of Verizon in November 2020.

Peretti said he decided to “overinvest” in BuzzFeed News “because I love their work and mission so much,” which 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.”

Chief Revenue Officer Edgar Hernandez and Chief Operating Officer Christian Baesler are leaving as well. The focus going forward is on reducing layers in the organization, streamlining the product mix, “doubling down” on social-media creators, and bringing AI to the sales process, Peretti said in the memo.

BuzzFeed has about 1,200 employees as of December. It had 1,368 employees across seven countries that month, and announced layoffs hitting about 12% of its workforce.

Also Thursday, Insider, the news site formerly known as Business Insider, said it was cutting 10% of its workforce due to “economic headwinds.”

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BuzzFeed shares have lost 85% in the past 12 months, compared with losses of around 7% for the S&P 500 index. SPX, -0.60%

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