BuzzFeed slashed 47 positions at HuffPost in Tuesday in one of the company’s first actions since acquiring the rival news site three weeks ago in a deal with Verizon Media.
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti told HuffPost on Tuesday that the cuts were part of an effort to “fast-track the path to profitability” for the newly acquired property. A representative for BuzzFeed did not immediately return a request for further comment.
“The restructuring announced today is not a short-term cost-cutting exercise,” a spokesperson told TheWrap. “We are shifting to a model that will enable HuffPost to break even this year and eventually be profitable, and that requires both cost management through restructuring, along with revenue acceleration, which will be managed by BuzzFeed’s business organization.”
The spokesperson added, “The most responsible thing we can do is to manage our costs and ensure BuzzFeed — and HuffPost — are set up to prosper long-term.”
The HuffPost union, a division of WGA East, said that the layoffs included 33 union employees, representing nearly 30% of the unit.
“We are devastated and infuriated, particularly after an exhausting year of covering a pandemic and working from home,” the union’s statement said. “This is also happening less than a month after HuffPost was acquired by BuzzFeed. We never got a fair shot to prove our worth.”
During a meeting Tuesday, Peretti noted that HuffPost’s losses in 2020 exceeded $20 million, then pointed out that BuzzFeed is newly profitable, but can’t sustain another year of similar losses.
“The severance we’re offering for all impacted union employees in the U.S. follows the collective bargaining agreement of HuffPost’s Union,” he added. “For all others, we are following Verizon’s separation package and whatever contracts the employees may have in place. We will also be giving adjusted bonuses to all impacted employees for the time they worked in 2021.”
As part of the deal announced last November, Verizon Media has a minority stake in BuzzFeed Inc., while BuzzFeed controls a media network that now includes HuffPost, BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed News and Tasty.
BuzzFeed News and HuffPost operate separately as “distinct news organizations,” according to the announcement, but Verizon Media and BuzzFeed syndicate content across one another’s platforms, which includes Verizon’s Yahoo brand.
Peretti, who co-founded HuffPost — then called the Huffington Post — back in 2005, oversees the new media network. He is also leading the search for HuffPost’s next editor — a position that has remained unfilled since Lydia Polgreen stepped down in March 2020 to become the head of content at the podcast company Gimlet.
In Tuesday’s staff meeting, Peretti updated employees on the editor in chief search, saying the company was “in the final interview stage.”