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November 23, 2022updated 25 Nov 2022 9:47am

Buzzfeed’s bumpy ride post-public listing, charted

Prompted by its drooping market cap, Press Gazette pieced together a longer picture of the publisher's health.

By Bron Maher

Buzzfeed’s share price has continued to slide following its third quarter results last week, which showed time spent with its brands had declined one-third in a year.

Buzzfeed Inc’s market capitalisation at market close on Tuesday 22 November was $164m (£138m).

That is approximately 11% of the $1.5bn (£1.3bn) valuation the company received in June 2021 ahead of its public listing, and less than a tenth of the $1.7bn valuation the business received at the height of its influence in 2016, before it began purchasing other media companies.

The company, which last year bought both digital news operation Huffpost and youth entertainment outlet Complex Networks, has only been profitable in two quarters over the last two years. It started this year worth $700m.

[Read more: Adspend forecast – 2022 and 2023 predictions downgraded amid recession fears]

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Following on from the results last week, Press Gazette took a look at Buzzfeed’s previous SEC filings to piece together a longer picture of the publisher’s health.

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Time spent with Buzzfeed has fallen continuously this year

Buzzfeed reported in its third quarter results last week that time spent with its content was down markedly, dropping a third year-on-year. A look at its results for the intervening quarters shows that the decline has been continuous, with total time spent dropping each quarter since Q3 2021.

In Q4 2021 Buzzfeed did not disaggregate how much of its traffic came from third-party platforms (i.e. social media) versus its own platforms, but the decline across the period appears to have been driven by a fall in the former. Time spent with Buzzfeed content on its own websites and apps, however, appears to have increased modestly since Q1 2021.

Buzzfeed CFO Felicia DellaFortuna said on earnings day: "US time spent, as reported by Comscore - which does not include TikTok or Reels - declined 32% year-over-year to 151 million hours in the third quarter, driven by declining Facebook traffic, as short-form vertical video formats continued to gain audience share. This offset growth in time spent on our owned and operated properties.

"Although industry-standard reporting on audience time spent does not yet reflect newer platforms and formats, we are pleased with the audience momentum we have generated so far this year, and look forward to sharing more on our progress in this important area over the coming quarters."

Costs remain greater than revenues - for now

Across the past two years Buzzfeed's revenues have stayed stubbornly lower than total expenses, except in the fourth quarters of both 2020 and 2021. Large holiday season marketing budgets mean fourth quarters are often publishers' most profitable.

Less gloomily for Buzzfeed, revenues appear to have climbed consistently: each of the last four quarters brought revenue between 15% and 26% higher than the same quarter a year before. Costs, which had been approximately equal to revenue in Q2 and Q3 2021, jumped markedly in the fourth quarter of that year and have only negligibly declined since then.

Disaggregated figures suggest the revenue increase has been driven by a rise in advertising and content income, which are up by 31% and 97% respectively since the start of 2021. Advertising has taken a recent knock, however, registering only a marginal year-on-year rise in Buzzfeed's most recent earnings release. Commerce and other revenues appear to have remained largely flat across the period.

Costs for Buzzfeed have increased since the quarter it went public via SPAC, with cost of revenue, general and administrative costs and sales and marketing costs up 25%, 46% and 38% year-over-year respectively. But in another glint of hope for the company, each appear to have remained flat or declined since Q1 2022.

[Read more: SPACs and the media - Why investment in news companies is on hold]

Disaggregated figures for Buzzfeed's US versus international takings show that the company has seen consistent growth in its home market - but less obvious growth abroad.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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