BuzzFeed News’ top editors leave as the company offers buyouts to its investigative, politics, inequality, and science reporters

BuzzFeed News’ editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs is leaving the company, along with deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako and executive editor Ariel Kaminer, The Information was first to report Tuesday. The departures were made public the same day that BuzzFeed released its first earnings report as a public company and projected that it would lose money in the current quarter.

Samantha Henig, the company’s VP of news strategy and operations, will take over as interim editor-in-chief.

BuzzFeed News, with 100 employees, was losing about $10 million a year, two “people familiar with the matter” told CNBC. Those people also noted that “several large shareholders have urged BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti to shut down the entire news operation.”

same morning: Buzzfeed reports revenue is 31% lower than it promised to investors last year.
Buzzfeed told investors it would make $520m in 2021, and this would soar to $1.1bn in 2024.
actual 2021 revenue: $398m. https://t.co/QePtLjHN78

— Anna Nicolaou (@annaknicolaou) March 22, 2022

Looking ahead to the first 3 months of this year, $bzfd expects revenue to DROP and losses to top $20 million.

BUT, the company’s stock-based awards will INCREASE by about $4.5 million.

Some employees have not been able to sell their stock: https://t.co/sdXA6M1bJH

— Edmund Lee (@edmundlee) March 22, 2022

From Schoofs’ resignation email:

Under [BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti]’s leadership, the company has subsidized BuzzFeed News for many years. The next phase is for BuzzFeed News is to accelerate the timeline to profitability and undergo a strategic shift so that we will get there by the end of 2023. That will require BuzzFeed News to once again shrink in size. […]

We hope to reduce our size through voluntary buy-outs, not layoffs, and we have reached out to the union to negotiate buyouts. Also: This is not your fault. You have done everything we asked, producing incandescent journalism that changed the world.

Schoofs hinted at what a smaller BuzzFeed News will — and won’t — focus on. The “won’t” appears to be longform investigative reporting, the kind for which BuzzFeed News won a Pulitzer last year. Instead, Schoofs wrote, the News division will focus on “the nexus between the internet and IRL.”

The new plan will emphasize one of our core strengths: providing fast, accessible, and authoritative coverage of the nexus between the internet and IRL. Pound for pound, BuzzFeed News is the best newsroom in America, and the people who stay will do terrific work.

We will be offering voluntary buyouts to anyone on Investigations, Politics, Inequality, or Science who has worked here for at least a year and who decides it’s time to move on.

Here’s Gawker writing about Peretti’s comments in this morning’s earnings call:

Peretti seemed bullish on other forms of “content development” — specifically on TikTok and in the metaverse. Though the company will cut the Complex editorial staff, Peretti said the network’s projects like ComplexCon and ComplexLand would accelerate their “ability to meet and increase demand for new connected experiences in the metaverse.” And though some 1.7 percent of the workforce will be taking buyouts this year, Peretti added that on TikTok and other platforms they planned to “double the size of their creator network.”

The news was a lot to take in for current and former employees and the rest of us looking on as seemingly bad news keeps rolling in.

Awful, awful news. It’s clear the IPO was disastrous for journalism. Sending love and solidarity to everyone at Buzzfeed News, especially union members who’ve been fighting for a strong first contract for over two years. https://t.co/22oLfaf62K

— rebekah entralgo fernández (@rebekahentralgo) March 22, 2022

BuzzFeed News was what it was because of the people. The groundbreaking journalism was a byproduct of being around the bravest and most caring people in the business, and I’m sad that they are being whittled away. It feels like your childhood home is on fire.

— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) March 22, 2022

Unconscionable decision to further decimate the newsroom. A newsroom that has won a Pulitzer, Mirror awards, broken life-changing stories, and most recently had reporters on the ground in Ukraine. Endless love to my former colleagues. No love to the people making these decisions. https://t.co/1SaDZmZ25F

— Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv) March 22, 2022

Dying digital media property shuffle:

Job cuts-lower traffic-bleeding ad revenue-more cuts-lower traffic-bleeding ad revenue-more cuts-rinse-repeat https://t.co/hEX80EwcpY

— ℮oin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) March 22, 2022

Don’t have anything insightful to say beyond the fact that it makes me sad that BuzzFeed News can’t seem to break out of this cycle of layoffs/buyouts, and can’t help but wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t taken on VC funding or had done a few things differently https://t.co/avinHxwYwx

— Anna Hensel (@ahhensel) March 22, 2022

I hate this. Just over a year after the BF cuts that shut down HuffPost Canada & Quebec (and reduced US staff), of course it’s happening again. Expecting news to be profitable above all else is a loss for everybody. Solidarity with the BuzzFeed workers who are now out of a job. https://t.co/Ix5PGyy6yX

— Maija Kappler (@MaijaKappler) March 22, 2022

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