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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

BuzzFeed News, which famously published Steele dossier, shutting down as company slashes headcount

BuzzFeed News will shut down, the company announced on Friday. 

BuzzFeed, the liberal website that famously published the since-discredited Steele dossier in 2017, will cut roughly 15% of its staff and shutter its news operation because of a downward trend in performance combined with a challenging economy. 

“We are reducing our workforce by approximately 15% today across our Business, Content, Tech and Admin teams, and beginning the process of closing BuzzFeed News. Additionally, we are proposing headcount reductions in some international markets,” BuzzFeed CEO John Peretti wrote in a memo to staffers obtained by Fox News Digital. 

The company currently has roughly 1,200 employees, meaning roughly 180 jobs will be lost. CRO Edgar Hernandez and COO Christian Baesler are leaving the company, and BuzzFeed President Marcela Martin will take on responsibility for all revenue functions effective immediately. 

DURHAM PROBE: FBI OFFERED CHRISTOPHER STEELE $1 MILLION TO CORROBORATE TRUMP ALLEGATIONS IN DOSSIER

Buzzfeed

BuzzFeed News will shut down, the company announced on Friday. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo – S1AETILHYYAA)

“Impacted employees (other than those in BuzzFeed News) will receive an email from HR shortly. If you are receiving this note from me, you are not impacted by today’s changes. For BuzzFeed News, we have begun discussions with the News Guild about these actions,” Peretti continued. “The changes the Business Organization is making today are focused on reducing layers in their organization, increasing speed and effectiveness of pitches, streamlining our product mix, doubling down on creators, and beginning to bring AI enhancements to every aspect of our sales process.”

A company insider said BuzzFeed is only moving forward with departments that have proven to be profitable, and the news operation simply doesn’t hit that requirement. BuzzFeed and sister company HuffPost, the well-known progressive news site, are expected to offer roles to several affected BuzzFeed News journalists. 

HuffPost will be the company’s sole news organization moving forward.

“While layoffs are occurring across nearly every division, we’ve determined that the company can no longer continue to fund BuzzFeed News as a standalone organization. As a result, we will engage with the News Guild about our cost reduction plans and what this will mean for the affected union members,” Peretti wrote.

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“We’ve faced more challenges than I can count in the past few years: a pandemic, a fading SPAC market that yielded less capital, a tech recession, a tough economy, a declining stock market, a decelerating digital advertising market and ongoing audience and platform shifts. Dealing with all of these obstacles at once is part of why we’ve needed to make the difficult decisions to eliminate more jobs and reduce spending,” he continued. “But I also want to be clear: I could have managed these changes better as the CEO of this company and our leadership team could have performed better despite these circumstances. Our job is to adapt, change, improve, and perform despite the challenges in the world. We can and will do better.” 

Peretti admitted that he “made the decision to overinvest in BuzzFeed News,” which first launched in 2011 under then-editor in chief Ben Smith. 

“This made me slow to accept that the big platforms wouldn’t provide the distribution or financial support required to support premium, free journalism purpose-built for social media,” he wrote. “More broadly, I regret that I didn’t hold the company to higher standards for profitability, to give us the buffer needed to manage through economic and industry downturns and avoid painful days like today. Our mission, our impact on culture, and our audience is what matters most, but we need a stronger business to protect and sustain this important work.”

Smith, who has since co-founded Semafor, made the decision to publish the Steele dossier. An excerpt from his upcoming book was released Thursday where he insisted he would still publish the dossier, while acknowledging some of the controversies that arose. 

BUZZFEED REPORTER, AFTER REBUKE BY MUELLER, UNABLE TO EXPLAIN DISCREPANCIES

CHRISTOPHER-STEELE-WASHINGTON-DC-DOSSIER

British ex-spy Christopher Steele authored the infamous anti-Trump dossier that was later found to be discredited. (REUTERS/John Sibley)

The dossier was filled with lewd allegations against Trump that turned out to be discredited, but it was pushed for years by liberal pundits on CNN and MSNBC. 

The 35-page opposition research document – published in its raw form by BuzzFeed News in 2017 – contained explosive allegations of an “extensive conspiracy” between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to win the 2016 election over Hillary Clinton, that the Russians could blackmail Trump with a tape of prostitutes urinating on him in a Moscow hotel, that Trump and the Kremlin had been in regular contact for nearly a decade, and that Trump aide Carter Page was an intermediary for former campaign manager Paul Manafort with the Russians, among other salacious charges.

Subsequent investigations by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to back any of the Steele dossier’s key claims and in some cases specifically discredited them.

The downfall of the dossier is considered to have tarnished BuzzFeed News’ reputation, although the outlet did publish lauded investigative work, such as its series on China’s horrific detention of Uyghur Muslims in 2021.

“BuzzFeed News will forever be best remembered, or worst remembered for releasing the Steele dossier into the public domain without any verification whatsoever. It opened the door to years of speculation by other media outlets that all proved to be a nothing burger without the bun. So that’s their legacy,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha told Fox News Digital. 

“Overall, the shutdown reflects what is an extremely challenging moment for the media industry as a whole. Advertisers are simply pulling back while the landscape has become fractured it’s a challenge more and more to stand out,” Concha continued. “We will be hearing more about these kinds of cuts as the year goes on and well into 2024.”

Peretti insisted he “exhausted many other cost saving measures to preserve as many jobs as possible” but ultimately couldn’t continue with the news operation. 

Ben Smith

BuzzFeed News launched in 2011 under then-boss Ben Smith, who now leads the newly launched Semafor.  ((Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images))

“We are reducing budgets, open roles, travel and entertainment, and most other discretionary, non-revenue generating expenditures. Just as we reduced our footprint in NYC last year, we will be reducing our real estate in Los Angeles — from four buildings down to one, which saves millions in costs as well as mirrors our current hybrid state of work,” he wrote.

Peretti will turn his attention to more profitable areas of the company. 

“We will concentrate our news efforts in HuffPost, a brand that is profitable with a highly engaged, loyal audience that is less dependent on social platforms,” Peretti wrote. “We will empower our editorial teams at all of our brands to do the very best creative work and build an interface where that work can be packaged and brought to advertisers more effectively.”

Peretti will hold a town hall event for employees on Friday.

Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report. 

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