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March 23, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:10am

Buzzfeed News editors quit and cuts to come as company falls short of revenue forecast

By Bron Maher

Three top Buzzfeed editors are stepping down from their roles as the company plans to cut its news operation further.

The news of the departures came the same day Buzzfeed published its first full-year earnings release as a publicly-listed company.

That release paints a picture of strong revenue growth that nonetheless remained short of what the business had promised investors.

Buzzfeed News editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs wrote in an email to staff that the news operation would have to “shrink” in a bid “to accelerate the timeline to profitability” for the division.

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Schoofs, who has been the outlet’s editor-in-chief since May 2020, told employees that Buzzfeed hoped to buy out rather than lay off reporters, according to The Daily Beast.

He wrote that he would no longer be leading Buzzfeed News as the wider business attempted to get the news operation to profit by 2023.

CNBC reported later on Tuesday that Buzzfeed investors pushed chief executive Jonah Peretti to shut down the entire newsroom. Instead, editorial staff have been offered voluntary buyouts.

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Staff with Buzzfeed’s award-winning investigations team tweeted on Wednesday indicating jobs were at risk on the desk. Buzzfeed confirmed to Press Gazette that the investigative journalists were among those that had been offered buyouts, but stressed that the wider outlet would continue to carry out investigative work.

Departing alongside Schoofs, Buzzfeed deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako is leaving for NBC News Digital, where he will be executive editor. Buzzfeed told Press Gazette Namako had the new job lined up before the news cuts were announced.

The Information reported that executive investigations editor Ariel Kaminer also told staff she would be leaving Buzzfeed.

News of the cuts broke as the company put out its first full-year earnings release since it began publicly trading on Nasdaq in December 2021.

The company recorded 24% revenue growth for the year to 31 December 2021, from $321.3m (£242m) in 2020 to $397.6m (£300m).

It experienced a 29% growth in net income year-over-year for the fourth quarter, from $32.3m (£24.4m) to $41.6m (£31.4m).

Costs in 2021 went up quicker than revenues, however, growing nearly 37% from $309.2m (£233.1m) in 2020 to $422.7m (£318.7) last year.

The steep rise is likely accounted for in part by Buzzfeed’s acquisition of first fellow digital publisher Huffpost in November 2020 and then Complex Networks for $300m in June last year.

As recently as December, when it was faced with investors pulling out of the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) formed to take it public, Buzzfeed was reporting projected revenue of $520m for 2021 and $1.1bn by 2024.

The company’s actual $397.6m figure is only 76% of the hoped-for 2021 revenue.

Both Buzzfeed and Huffpost’s news operations have sustained repeated cuts in recent years.

More than a dozen UK news staff left Huffpost in April, among them editor-in-chief Jess Brammar who has since joined the BBC. Buzzfeed had already cut 23 jobs at Huffpost Canada the month prior, shortly after finishing its acquisition.

Buzzfeed shut its UK and Australian news operations in May 2020.

Last week it shut down the almost seven-year-old Buzzfeed News app, telling readers to go to the main Buzzfeed app to get its journalism content instead.

Buzzfeed said: “We strive to meet our audience where they are, and we’ve found that most of our audience lives on the main BuzzFeed app. That’s where our journalism reaches the most people, so that’s why we’ve decided to redirect our resources there… Thank you for supporting our journalism for all these years and letting us help you make sense of the chaos.”

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