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BuzzFeed shutters its newsroom as the company undergoes layoffs

The logo of news website BuzzFeed in 2014. The company announced it was undergoing a 15% reduction in force and ending its news division.
Nicholas Kamm
/
AFP via Getty Images
The logo of news website BuzzFeed in 2014. The company announced it was undergoing a 15% reduction in force and ending its news division.

Updated April 21, 2023 at 3:48 PM ET

BuzzFeed is shutting down its Pulitzer Prize-winning news division as part of a 15% reduction in force across the company, BuzzFeed CEO and co-founder Jonah Peretti announced.

"While layoffs are occurring across nearly every division, we've determined that the company can no longer continue to fund BuzzFeed News as a standalone organization," Peretti wrote in the memo shared on Thursday via social media.

Peretti said he made the decision to "overinvest in BuzzFeed News because I love their work and mission so much." But this decision — in addition to a rough few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tech recession and a decelerating digital advertising market — made it impossible to financially support the news division any further, he said.

Moving forward, BuzzFeed will "concentrate our news efforts in HuffPost, a brand that is profitable with a highly engaged, loyal audience that is less dependent on social platforms," Peretti said. HuffPost and BuzzFeed Dot Com will have a number of select roles opened for members of BuzzFeed News, he said.

Former BuzzFeed editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, discussed the early days of BuzzFeed News,where he worked alongside Peretti, on Morning Edition. Smith said that in the beginning, there was a mix of hard news, funny quizzes, and social media posts, which led to some media innovation. But with the 2016 United States election, this approach became toxic, as many people became "a little sick" of consuming news through Facebook and online algorithms.

When asked about the reasons for the closure of BuzzFeed's news division and the layoffs, he said that fewer people use social media platforms and that less news is being shared on these platforms.

"I think we all wound up feeling overwhelmed, feeling that news is being fed to us through algorithms, and, you know, sort of pander to in certain ways," he told NPR's Michel Martin.

When asked about how to improve and better serve public media, Smith, who now runs the global news startup Semafor from New York, was uncertain and did not predict a better alternative or provide a specific solution. But he added that "a lot of people are watching short videos, instead of going on social networks. They're consuming a lot of email. And they're going to events."

BuzzFeed is just the latest media company to announce major layoffs. In recent weeks, NPR cut around 100 people and announced plans to ax four podcasts. The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, nixed its Sunday magazine and a handful of other newsroom jobs in January. Insider also announced this week it was laying off 10% of staff due to a decline in advertising revenue.

BuzzFeed said it reduced its New York real estate footprint last year, but that it will also be reducing its real estate in Los Angeles now, "from four buildings down to one, which saves millions in costs as well as mirrors our current hybrid state of work."

BuzzFeed News started in 2012 and grew to have more than 100 journalists across the world. The news division was a four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist.Its 2021 Pulitzer Prize award was for the company's international reporting in uncovering the Chinese government's mass detention of Muslims.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz
Majd Al-Waheidi
Majd Al-Waheidi is the digital editor on Morning Edition, where she brings the show's journalism to online audiences. Previously, Al-Waheidi was a reporter for the New York Times in the Gaza Strip, where she reported about a first-of-its-kind Islamic dating site, and documented the human impact of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war in a collaborative visual project nominated for an Emmy Award. She also reported about Wikipedia censorship in Arabic for Rest of World magazine, and investigated the abusive working conditions of TikTok content moderators for Business Insider. Al-Waheidi has worked at the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, and holds a master's degree in Arab Studies from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. A native of Gaza, she speaks Arabic and some French, and is studying Farsi.