Jonah Peretti, CEO and cofounder of BuzzFeed — who also cofounded HuffPost with Arianna Huffington in 2005 — announced the restructuring plans at an all-hands meeting Tuesday, which includes the immediate shutdown of HuffPost Canada. The cutbacks at HuffPost are “to fast-track its path to profitability,” he said, according to a company representative.
According to Peretti, HuffPost’s losses last year topped $20 million and the site would be on the same money-losing trajectory in 2021 without BuzzFeed taking steps to cut costs. The goal is for HuffPost to hit break-even this year, he added.
BuzzFeed is profitable, Peretti claimed, but said “we don’t have the resources to support another two years of losses. 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 cutbacks include the elimination of 47 positions in the U.S.; a BuzzFeed spokesperson was unable to confirm what percentage of HuffPost’s total staff that represents. In a tweet, BuzzFeed senior editor Jenna Amatulli said the 47 staffers represent 28% of the newsroom. Amatulli also posted a list of HuffPost employees who have been let go.
The WGA East-affiliated HuffPost Union, which reps editorial employees of the site, said that 33 of its members, or nearly 30%, are among those being laid off. “We are devastated and infuriated, particularly after an exhausting year of covering a pandemic and working from home,” the HuffPost Union said in a statement. “This is also happening less than a month after HuffPost was acquired by BuzzFeed. We never got a fair shot to prove our worth.”
BuzzFeed’s strategic goals for HuffPost are to boost coverage of politics and breaking news and to build a “stronger business for affiliate revenue and shopping content,” Peretti said.
Following the restructuring, HuffPost executive Hillary Frey and executive editor for international Louise Roug will be leaving the company. According to Peretti, BuzzFeed is in the final interview stage in its search for a new HuffPost editor-in-chief. Former EIC Lydia Polgreen left last year to join Spotify’s Gimlet podcast studio.
In addition to shuttering HuffPost Canada, which will result in the layoffs of 23 employees, BuzzFeed will move away from local coverage in HuffPost Australia and is looking at ways to streamline operations in Australia and the U.K., according to the BuzzFeed rep.
At the end of the restructuring process, HuffPost’s newsroom will remain bigger than BuzzFeed News, according to the BuzzFeed rep.
Verizon’s sale of HuffPost to BuzzFeed, which officially closed Feb. 16, resulted in the telco recording a pre-tax loss of $126 million for full-year 2020. When the companies announced the pact in November, they said the HuffPost transaction was part of a larger strategic partnership across content and advertising between BuzzFeed and Verizon, under which Verizon Media took minority stake in BuzzFeed.