BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs is stepping down, along with at least two other top editors, as the digital media company said it will be cutting jobs across the board.
“After almost two rollicking and deeply fulfilling years as editor-in-chief, I’ve decided that it’s the right time to move on,” Schoofs wrote in an internal memo to staff Tuesday.
In addition to Schoofs, BuzzFeed News deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako announced that he is leaving to become executive editor of NBC News Digital. In his memo, Schoofs said Namako “would have been a natural successor” to take the EIC spot at BuzzFeed News. Also exiting BuzzFeed News is Ariel Kaminer, executive editor of investigations.
The shakeup came as Buzzfeed reported its first financial results as a public company. In 2021, the company posted $398 million in revenue — up 24% year-over-year but 31% below the $520 million it previously projected. CEO Jonah Peretti, in a memo to employees Tuesday, said “BuzzFeed News will need to get smaller,” with the company planning to reduce headcount overall by 1.7% going forward.
In addition to job cuts at BuzzFeed News, the company will reduce staff on the BuzzFeed video team, at Complex Networks’ editorial team, as well as on the business and administrative teams, according to Peretti.
For Q1, on a pro-forma basis including Complex Networks, BuzzFeed said it expects revenue to be down by “a low single-digit percentage year-over-year.” Excluding Complex Networks, BuzzFeed projected Q1 revenue to grow by approximately 30%. Adjusted EBITDA losses will be $15 million to $20 million for the combined company in the first quarter.
With Schoofs’ exit, Samantha Henig, VP, news strategy and operations, will serve as interim editor-in-chief until a replacement is identified. Jason Wells, breaking news co-director, and London bureau chief Alex Campbell will run day-to-day news operations for BuzzFeed News. HuffPost, which BuzzFeed bought from Verizon in a deal that closed in February 2021, maintains separate editorial operations but a consolidated business development team supports both BuzzFeed News and HuffPost. Following layoffs at HuffPost last year, the group is now profitable (and hiring).
According to Peretti’s memo, he and Henig will “talk to BuzzFeed News later today about our plans to position BuzzFeed News to thrive in the current media ecosystem, accelerate its path to profitability, and become a stronger financial contributor to the overall BuzzFeed, Inc. business. This means that BuzzFeed News will need to get smaller, which we have reached out to discuss with the union — and to prioritize the areas of coverage our audience connects with most.”
Schoofs, in his departure memo, said, “We hope to reduce our size through voluntary buyouts, 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.”
On BuzzFeed’s earnings call, Peretti said the company is committed to make BuzzFeed News “a stronger financial contributor to the larger business.” As part of that strategy, he outlined the editorial focus for BuzzFeed News like this: “We will prioritize investments around coverage of the biggest news of the day, culture and entertainment, celebrity, and life on the internet.”
Time spent on BuzzFeed properties (on both owned-and-operated and third-party platforms) declined 4% to 186 million hours in Q4, driven by a decline in time spent on Facebook, CFO Felicia DellaFortuna said on the earnings call. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed’s commerce revenue declined 26% to $16.7 million in the fourth quarter, which DellaFortuna blamed on the audience shift away from Facebook and toward TikTok and Instagram; that has “disproportionately impacted our commerce revenues relative to other businesses.”
On the video front, BuzzFeed will prioritize investment in short-form vertical content, which “is clearly emerging as the preferred content format for young audiences,” Peretti said on the call.
“As young people continue to spend an increasing amount of time on TikTok, the more established platforms like Facebook are also prioritizing investments in their own vertical video formats to compete for audience time,” the CEO said. “And we are well-positioned to capitalize on this shift through our proven, differentiated approach to content creation and distribution.”