BuzzFeed to Reduce Employee Pay, CEO to Forgo Salary Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

BuzzFeed will reduce its employees’ salaries between five to 25 percent for at least two months, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced on Wednesday

Jonah Peretti
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti at BuzzFeed's New York office in 2018. (Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images)

BuzzFeed will be reducing its employee pay between five to 25 percent for at least two months, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced in an internal memo to staffers on Wednesday.

“We’ve been monitoring the human and economic impact of the coronavirus and it’s clear we will see a major economic downturn in the next few months,” Peretti wrote in the memo, which was provided to TheWrap by a spokesperson. “In our own business we want to save as many jobs as possible, even at the expense of wages declining. We don’t know how long this will last but we want to move quickly to make sure our business remains sustainable and we will lift the program and reevaluate if things improve.”

The salary reductions, which will begin on April 1, will apply to employees in the U.S. making above $40,000 a year and will be tiered based on a person’s annual salary. For those making $40,000 to $64,900, salaries will be slashed by five percent. Employees making between $65,000 and $89,900 will receive a seven percent cut, while those in the $90,000 to $124,900 range will get a nine percent cut. BuzzFeed staffers with salaries between $125,000 and $169,900 will have an 11% cut, while those making between $170,000 and $224,900 will have a 12% cut.

And on the highest end of salaries, employees who make above $225,000 will receive a 13% salary cut, while “purple executives” — the heads of the various BuzzFeed divisions like News, HR and Sales — will experience the highest cuts at 14-25%. Peretti himself will also be foregoing his salary entirely until the company is “on the other side of this crisis,” he wrote in the memo.

“This program will be applied to the majority of the company for April and May, and we will continue to review it on a monthly basis,” Peretti wrote. “We wanted to make sure that the lowest paid employees were least impacted, and leaders in the company making larger salaries took on more of the burden.”

While these pay cuts apply to the company’s U.S. employees, Peretti said that similar reductions would be rolled out in BuzzFeed’s international offices soon. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed’s contractors and freelancers will experience an 8% reduction in their rates, Peretti said.

There may be room for change in this pay reduction plan, however, as Peretti said that he will be meeting with the News Guild — a union that represents staff from BuzzFeed News and other media outlets — to share the plan and “invite them to participate in this or to propose a new plan that meets the same savings goal.” (The BuzzFeed News union said in a statement that it was glad the company was taking a “proactive approach and pursuing options to cut costs that don’t result in job losses.”)

“If the economy improves and our forecast improves, we will end the program and return to full compensation. If the economy worsens, this plan puts us in a better position to respond to the market and weather the changes,” Peretti wrote. “Please know that we didn’t come to this lightly, but as we operate through a major crisis as a more mature company, we have to put both the greater good and the long-term health of the company at the center of our decision-making process.”