It is becoming a start-the-year tradition for Buzzfeed to fire staff in January, they did so last year and last night the CEO Jonah Peretti emailed staff telling them he’s firing 250 of them next week:
I’m writing with sad news: we are doing layoffs at BuzzFeed next week. We will be making a 15% overall reduction in headcount across the company. I’m sending this tonight because I wanted you to hear it from me directly instead of from the press.
Over the past few months, we’ve done extensive work examining the trends in our business and the evolving economics of the digital platforms. We’ve developed a good understanding of where we can consolidate our teams, focus in on the content that is working, and achieve the right cost structure to support our multi-revenue model. We are confident the changes we are making will put us on a firm foundation and allow us to invest and grow sustainably for years to come.
I’m so proud of what our team accomplished over the last year, including diversifying our revenue, and growing our business double digits. Unfortunately, revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run. The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again. These changes will allow us to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.
I’ll share more about our future structure in a few days, but today I want to focus on what will be a difficult week, especially for the people who are leaving the company. These are talented people, friends, and valued colleagues, who’ve made huge contributions to our success, and who’ve done nothing wrong. Even though I’m confident this is the right business decision, it is upsetting and disappointing.
On a personal note, I’ve never thought about my job as “just business.” I care about the people at BuzzFeed more than anything other than my family. This will be a tough week for all of us and I realize it will be much worse for the people losing their jobs. To them, I want to say thank you, I’m sorry our work together is ending this way, and I hope we get to work together again in the future. Our loss will be to the benefit of other organizations where I know you will go on to make formidable contributions.
We will be back to you with specifics on the process by Monday at the latest. Thank you all in advance for your compassion and kindness as we go through this process.
Buzzfeed has burnt through over $500 million of investors money which they are unlikely to ever get back. Investors are no longer interested in an online land grab for readers without profits. Peretti is looking to merge the company with rivals as they strive to stem losses. Last year the struggling firm fired over a third of their UK staff. Presumably the UK editor Janine Gibson quit last week because she didn’t want to oversee another round of job cuts…
The federasts at BuzzFeed love to trumpet their trendy appeal to a higher ethical code. Even in the age of aggressive native marketing and advertorials, BuzzFeed has promised to never run stories about ads it’s being paid for:
“Appreciation buzz posts celebrating a fun or cool ad are fine, as are posts critical of ads — but that content should not be about ads BuzzFeed’s business side has created.”
That’s all well and good, especially as doing so could be in breach of EU directive 2005/29/EC, which places a firm ban on “Using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content” – in other words, advertorials which don’t carry a “sponsored” or “advert” heading.
BuzzFeed has so far run five stories featuring the Jack Wills brand, purely as an act of “celebrating a fun or cool ad”. Here are our fave snaps from them:
1. Those totes-beaut hoodies.
2. That fetch Jack Wills in Cheshire…
3. …and that even fetcher one in Surrey.
4. Got to love those JW scents.
5. And last but not least, all those steamy Jack Wills models wearing Jack Wills clothes.
After asking BuzzFeed a spokesman was quick to tell Guido there was no commercial relationship between the trendy site and clothing company – after all, they’ve fallen foul of native advertising laws before on articles by “Brand Publishers”. You won’t believe what BuzzFeed’s shareholders must think about running (unpaid?) advertorials…
UPDATE: UK editor Janine Gibson tweets in response ‘In the words of Tina Fey: “Nope. Not product placement. That’s just the kind of revenue creating geniuses we are.”‘
Confirming Buzzfeed’s status as the growing place where disappointed hacks retreat for more money and less work, Janine Gibson is off to do “serious news” as their editor-in-chief.
In a swift update to his Twitter bio, current editor Luke Lewis has been forced sideways to be Executive Editor. According to their press release he will remain in charge of entertainment news / cat pictures:
Gibson will manage the more than 40 reporters and writers currently based in London and oversee all editorial content, including the site’s News, Buzz, and Life divisions. She will also be hiring across those areas, with plans to invest particularly aggressively in BuzzFeed News’ British operation. Lewis will continue as a key leader in BuzzFeed’s London newsroom, with a focus on entertainment coupled with data and analytics as BuzzFeed continues to grow internationally.
From one loss maker to another… ¯_(ツ)_/¯
MediaGuardian were scooped to the departure of their own paper’s deputy editor by Politico on Friday. Seen as the heir apparent to Alan Rusbridger for the editorship, Janine Gibson was overlooked and is now off. Rusbridger finally gets round to emailing staff:
Sorry that we got scooped on this, but no-one was really anticipating rival breaking news late on the Friday of a bank holiday.
Janine Gibson has, after much thought, decided to move on from the Guardian.
As most of you know, Janine’s been with us for 17 years, after joining as a refugee from the Independent. As media editor she launched the MediaGuardian website and was then appointed G3 editor before becoming editor of the Guardian website in 2008 and then a deputy editor.
Janine launched Guardian US in 2011, at a time when we had not quite found our feet or purpose in the States. She had a clear sense of where the Guardian should be going and what it should be in America. Guardian US began with 6 employees and 7m users, and grew in 3 years to 50+ staff and tripled its audience. And, of course, she edited the Snowden story out of New York in a way that was assured, well-judged and brave. The Snowden story probably won more awards than any story since Watergate – and much of that was down to Janine’s sure touch.
That record – plus her digital instincts – made Janine a high profile figure in US journalism, and it was no surprise when the NYT tried to poach her to be their deputy editor early last year. At that point we managed to keep her, with the (thankless!) task of returning to London to help reorganise desks and production as well as edit the digital site.
She’s been a brilliantly talented and lovely colleague, and we wish her so well in whatever she does next.
Gibson’s leaving will once again fuel speculation that the New York Times’ board is considering setting up a London operation as revenge for the Guardian attempting to muscle in on their turf stateside. Janine ran Guardian US until last year and will have impressed editing the Snowden story. The news got a suspiciously kind write up in the NYT over the weekend…
Surely it’s time for the Guardian to have their first non-private school educated editor?