It’s a dark day to work in media. On the heels of news that TechCrunch parent company Verizon Media Group (formerly Oath) would lay off roughly 800 workers, BuzzFeed has announced its own substantial staffing cuts. And though they were anticipated, Gannett also made substantial cuts to newsrooms around the U.S. on Wednesday.
In a memo to employees, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti explained that the layoffs would hit next week, reducing its workforce by 15 percent, or about 250 positions.
“Over the past few months, we’ve done extensive work examining the trends in our business and the evolving economics of the digital platforms,” Peretti said in the memo. “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.”
Peretti added that he is “confident” that the layoffs would chart a sustainable course of growth for the new media giant — likely one that aims to turn the maturing media company’s revenues into a profit. According to the memo, that means a future in which BuzzFeed could sustain operations without seeking additional rounds of funding.
Between its smaller investments and two huge rounds from NBCUniversal, BuzzFeed has raised $500 million over the last decade. The company last raised $200 million in late 2016 from NBCUniversal, which invested a total of $400 million in the media company. BuzzFeed’s other investors include Andreessen Horowitz, RRE Ventures, Hearst Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.
Though the company cut 100 jobs in 2017, 2019’s layoffs are BuzzFeed’s most substantial to date. The news comes at an uncomfortable time for the website’s employees, who will have to wait in limbo until early next week for the axe to come down.
“This will be a tough week for all of us and I realize it will be much worse for the people losing their jobs,” Peretti said. “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.”
The full memo from Peretti to staff is embedded below.
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.