Just a few weeks after BuzzFeed completed its acquisition of The Huffington Post, the latter is facing editorial layoffs.
The digital outlet said Tuesday that 47 staffers are being cut and that the entirety of its operations in Canada will be closed. In an email to staff, BuzzFeed founder and chief executive officer Jonah Peretti said the cuts will create “a fast-track to profitability,” according to a report on HuffPost’s website. Peretti was one of the original founders of HuffPost, which he left to start BuzzFeed in 2006.
The union of HuffPost’s editorial team in the U.S. put the layoffs in starker terms, saying the cuts account for “nearly 30 percent” of its bargaining unit.
“We are devastated and infuriated, particularly after an exhausting year of covering a pandemic and working from home,” the union group wrote in a statement.
Given their union representation by Writers Guild of America East, however, members affected by the layoffs will receive severance.
BuzzFeed only completed its all-stock acquisition of HuffPost in mid-February. At the time, BuzzFeed reiterated what it had said at the time the merger was announced in November, that HuffPost would “operate as its own distinct brand” and would “remain separate and independent” from BuzzFeed.
The HuffPost union took issue with the apparent speed of the layoffs post-merger, saying, “We never got a fair shot to prove our worth.”
Backstage at Chanel RTW Fall 2021
How staffers were informed of layoffs is also irking many. There is said to have been a staff meeting abruptly called today at Noon ET, with no notice or allusion to the topic. Then Peretti informed the staff that nearly 50 of them would be let go. He did not say which, but that emails to those affected were being sent until 1 pm. If you didn’t receive an email by then, you could expect to remain employed.
That message was relayed via a Zoom meeting with a misleadingly jaunty “spring is h3r3” password required for entry.
Despite BuzzFeed’s claims that the two sites would remain separate, the goal of the merger is to “syndicate” content across both sites while also creating an outlet of larger scale to lure advertisers and more lucrative digital ad rates. Despite talk in recent years of how much advertisers like “engagement,” causing the metric of how much time online readers spend with an article or video, overall audience size and traffic is still the central force drawing online advertisers.
HuffPost is still searching for an editor in chief to replace Lydia Polgreen, who left the site a year ago to to head up content at podcast company Gimlet, owned by Spotify. But Peretti told staff amid the layoff announcement that that search is nearing its end and “a group of finalists” is being considered.
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