BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti claims he’s bullish on the digital company’s future healthy growth — touting a strategy of revenue diversification and working to “fix” the monetization problems BuzzFeed and others have with big…
Fox News host Tucker Carlson dug in for a weedy and technical interview with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith on Monday night, but before Smith even spoke a word, Carlson offered a lengthy monologue for his viewers deriding the website as a “cat blog.”
“Not so long ago, America had prestige media outlets. Harvard graduates literally went to work for Newsweek rather than private equity. Not anymore,” Carlson said. “Teen Vogue now has a news division, and so does a New York-based cat blog called BuzzFeed.”
Carlson then spent a lot of time driving home the point that BuzzFeed spent a lot of time writing about cats.
“When a BuzzFeed headline commands you to ‘Stop everything and watch this cat who loves the ocean,’ you do. You stop everything and you watch that cat,” Carlson added, flashing headlines across the screen. “When BuzzFeed offers one of its trademark cat quizzes, you dutifully take the quiz. What kind of purrsonality does your cat actually have? Or how cat are you? Take this quiz. Meow!”
A rep for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
When Carlson and Smith finally got into their interview, which focused on the website’s reporting on Michael Cohen and whether he was instructed by Trump to lie to Congress, Smith openly complained about not having enough time to explain the broader story to viewers because Carlson spent too much of his monologue talking about cats.
“Can I just tell the story to your audience here that we talk about, because this is the story at the heart of this whole thing,” Smith said.
“No, because we don’t have enough time,” Carlson responded.
“You spent a lot of time talking about cats. Can I just talk for two minutes about the Trump Tower Moscow?”
The answer though was still no, and Carlson redirected the conversation to Smith and BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the Steele dossier, which raised eyebrows at the time because much of it was unverified at the time.
Veteran TV producer David Hatcher is now overseeing BuzzFeed News’ “AM to DM” morning talk show on Twitter as executive producer. Hatcher, who started at BuzzFeed on Feb. 11, has day-to-day showrunning responsibilities for the one-hou…
A month after BuzzFeed laid off 15 percent of its workforce its editorial staff responded Tuesday with the announcement that they planned to form a union.
“It’s not all fun and memes,” the staff’s organizing committee said in a …
Facebook keeps plowing more money into original programming for Watch: The company ordered a six-part docu-series on NBA superstar Stephen Curry and set a Feb. 20 premiere date for BuzzFeed News’ interactive trivia game show “Outside Your B…
When it debuted in 2006, BuzzFeed quickly became a social media sensation. Its listicles, quizzes and funny videos went viral and created a huge audience online. The New York-based start-up later hired hundreds of journalists to do serious journali…
In a swift reversal, BuzzFeed announced Monday evening that they would in fact pay out unused paid time off and comp days to all their departing U.S. employees. The company, which recently let go 15 percent of its work force — totaling over 200 people — had originally planned to extend the benefit only to California-based employees and only then because they were required by law.
“After meeting with the BF News Staff Council today we have decided to pay our earned and unused PTO and comp days as part of the severance packages for U.S. employees impacted by these layoffs in states where this is not required by law,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti told staff in an evening email. “This change will be covered by an addendum to the separation agreements for those outside of CA.”
Hands were largely tied among management on Monday after more than 350 current and former BuzzFeed staff began circulating a Medium post demanding that the company pay out. With dozens of prominent BuzzFeed personalities tweeting out the link, it swiftly became a national trend.
“BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all U.S. employees who have been laid off. They will only pay out PTO to employees in California, where the law requires it,” the petition read. “Employers absolutely can pay out PTO - and often do. It is a choice, and for a company that has always prided itself on treating its employees well, we unequivocally believe it is the only justifiable choice.”
BuzzFeed management had initially resisted handing out the perk to its notably non-unionized staff. In an original response to the petition, the company’s HR chief Lenke Taylor warned of “tradeoffs.” It’s unclear what those were or what form they will take given the company’s change of heart.
A rep for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to request for clarification from TheWrap.
The PTO decision is a small silver lining for journalists and media employees who suffered one of the most brutal round of layoffs in recent memory last week. In addition to BuzzFeed, HuffPost shed at least 20 employees in editorial, with major cuts also coming to Gannett’s papers around the country. CNN estimated that a 1,000 media jobs disappeared last week alone.
BuzzFeed will pay out laid-off staffers for their accrued paid time off, after all: CEO Jonah Peretti told staff in a company-wide email Monday afternoon that the company was going to add changes to its separation agreement to account for PTO time for …
A contributor for BuzzFeed addressed the latest layoffs at the company with a quiz called “Do You Still Have a Job at BuzzFeed?” — which he posted on BuzzFeed.
Imitating the style of the company’s famous quizzes, contributor Jas…
BuzzFeed chief exec Jonah Peretti is being criticized by current and former employees over the company’s decision to not pay laid-off staffers (except for those in California) for their paid time-off days, in the wake of BuzzFeed slashing 15% of …
Current and former BuzzFeed employees are demanding the company compensate recently laid off staffers for their full, unused paid time off.
In a weekend Medium post, the BuzzFeed News Staff Council — an internal organization designed to raise emp…
President Donald Trump sent federal workers back to work this week allegedly out of sympathy for their payless plight. But he had little emotional support left for the journalists laid off this week by BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.
In an afternoon …
New details trickled out about the layoffs across BuzzFeed’s news division Friday, and the picture hasn’t been pretty: The publication’s entire national news desk has been laid off, as has almost the entire national security team, according to a source close to the company as well as tweets from affected writers and editors. Yep, it’s […]
Many of those affected by BuzzFeed’s latest round of layoffs have been taking to Twitter this morning to share the unhappy news.
The company confirmed Wednesday it planned to lay off 15% of its workforce, or about 200 people, including many news …
The future of digital news is once again a topic of raging debate and concern after BuzzFeed and AOL-Yahoo and HuffPost announced severe staff cutbacks this week, once again putting hundreds of journalists out of work.
Can news survive in the digital age? What is the model?
“What if there is literally no profitable model for digital news?” MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes asked on Twitter on Thursday, setting off a long back and forth. “Or none that actually scales and endures without, say, the established readership base and brand of the [New York Times]. This seems…. Increasingly likely to me?”
Also Read: BuzzFeed to Lay Off 15 Percent of Its Staff
The word “crisis” is in the air, and understandably so. After a brutal year in the digital advertising space, after budgeting and strategic review and board meetings in January, BuzzFeed said it was cutting 15 percent of its staff (with pink slips to go to up to 400 people, according to one insider). Verizon said it was shedding 800 jobs in media — meaning AOL, Yahoo, Oath and HuffPost.
This follows other radical cuts by digital news organizations — the millennial news site Mic laid off its entire editorial staff last November before selling off its remaining assets, Refinery29 hacked 10 percent of its staff in October, and Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter trimmed 22 people this month as parent company Valence Media restructured its business operations.
The problem, as has been chronicled in this space with rising dismay, is that advertising dollars have been sucked away by the tech giants — Google and Facebook.
Two decades ago, Craig’s List killed classified advertising, the cash float that helped so many local papers — and newspapers have never really recovered.
Digital media organizations that arose in the wake of that shift found a model that worked for a time. To make newspapers obsolete, they raced for massive scale, driving reader “clicks” to float digital advertising dollars that could match the higher prices of print and pursuing video to get premium ad dollars for that platform.
But the cost of producing video at mass scale did not pencil out to profit and pricey experiments like HuffPost Live faded away.
By the second decade of this millennium, Google and Facebook made any achievement of “scale” — of hundreds of millions of unique users per month — obsolete. With a technological expertise that news organizations can’t match, they target the audience that advertisers want more efficiently and with more precision than even the largest of news sites.
The third tech entrant into media selling, Amazon, has similar gargantuan scale and technological chops.
The Twitter debate on Thursday questioned whether news needs to be reframed less as a business proposition than as a public trust, funded by a federal tax, or whether seeking nonprofit status will be required to sustain journalism (particularly local journalism) in a modern democracy.
Sewell Chan, the new deputy managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, wrote: “I joined @latimes to find such a model. America is too big, its communities too diverse for @nytimes, @washingtonpost and @WSJ (great as they are) to be the only legacy papers that survive this mass-extinction event.”
BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti recently floated the idea of a merger between BuzzFeed and another publisher, saying in the New York Times that players like Vice Media, Vox, Group Nine and Refinery29 could combine forces and potentially provide a big enough bulwark against Google and Facebook.
On Twitter, David Folkenflik of NPR raised the prospect of micropayments for news, which he said has not worked in places where it’s been tried. Another commenter said news sites should consolidate payment through one vendor to make it easier for consumers.
Friends inside Oath and HuffPost tell me it is vastly demoralizing to know that Verizon has written down — or essentially written off — the value of their entire division despite the fact that it still produces hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the parent company.
Vice too is the midst of facing a similar reality. At TheWrap’s Power Women Summit in November, Vice’s new CEO Nancy Dubuc said she wasn’t sure about the media company’s valuation at that point — and Disney recently wrote down the value of its investment in Vice by $157 million.
How important is news? In the current era when news consumption and interest seem higher than ever, finding a way for digital news to survive is more urgent than ever.
James Woods took to Twitter on Thursday morning to celebrate layoffs at BuzzFeed and HuffPost earlier this week, calling the news a “victory for real journalism.”
“Well, layoffs at #Buzzfeed and #HuffPo are victories for real journalism. The less #FakeNews, the better,” the actor wrote on Twitter. In his post, Woods included a screenshot of a tweet by Mother Jones editor in chief Clara Jeffrey, urging her followers to support news organizations.
“I would hope the people cheering layoffs of journalists can find whatever emotional support they so clearly need in their lives. As many smart people have written in recent days, lord knows that support will not be found on Twitter,” a rep for BuzzFeed told TheWrap.
Reps for HuffPost did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
The media layoffs this week suggest the broad industry contraction over the last several years will continue apace in 2019. On Wednesday evening, news broke that BuzzFeed would cut 15 percent of its staff.
“Over the past few months, we’ve done extensive work examining the trends in our business and the evolving economics of the digital platforms,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti explained to staff in an email. “We’ve developed a good understanding of where we can consolidate our teams, focus in on the content that is working, and achieve the right cost structure to support our multi-revenue model. We are confident the changes we are making will put us on a firm foundation and allow us to invest and grow sustainably for years to come.
Cuts at Verizon Media have also resulted in layoffs at HuffPost, with of the news coming to staffers Thursday afternoon.
Woods, an Emmy and Golden Globe-winner, is best known for his roles in “Casino,” “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Salvador.” In recent years, Woods has become known for his conservative positions. He is also one of President Trump’s biggest supporters online and even earning a shoutout from the president earlier this month.
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) January 24, 2019
UPDATED with Jonah Peretti memo: It certainly has been a tough week at BuzzFeed. A week after Robert Mueller’s office raised doubts about the news org’s report that Donald Trump ordered his lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress come…
BuzzFeed is slashing its workforce by 15% in a move to boost the internet-media company’s profitability and “focus on content that is working,” according to a memo from CEO Jonah Peretti sent to staffers Wednesday. The cuts will be ma…
BuzzFeed will be laying off about 15 percent of its workforce, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday afternoon, as the site adjusts to a new shifting digital-focused media landscape.
At least 250 people could lose their job, the Journal reporte…
BuzzFeed has issued a new statement saying that it has “re-confirmed” its report about former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, standing by the reporting despite a denial from the Special Counsel’s office.
“As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate. We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able,” the company said.
BuzzFeed’s comment follows the Friday statement issued by Robert Mueller’s office disputing a report that President Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow. Per Mueller’s office, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Throughout, BuzzFeed has stood by the reporting from journalists Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith calling on Mueller to “make clear what he’s disputing.”
According to BuzzFeed’s original story, Cohen told investigators that Trump instructed him to tell Congress that negotiations for the Moscow Tower ended months earlier than they actually did, in an effort to downplay Trump’s involvement in the deal. The report also stated that, according to sources, Mueller’s office had learned about Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed the report, calling it “categorically false.” Other critics questioned the unnamed sources and conflicting reports about whether the BuzzFeed reporters had seen the evidence or were relying on accounts from their sources.
The intense scrutiny also resurfaced reporter Leopold’s checkered past. In 2002, Salon.com removed a story Leopold had written for the site after accusations of plagiarism. There was also a 2006 Columbia Journalism Review piece accusing him of fabricating sources.
The criticism prompted BuzzFeed to issue a defense of Leopold and the story Friday morning, telling TheWrap: “Jason is one of the best journalists in the world, and he has proven it, with reporting that’s been months ahead of developments in the Mueller investigation.”
“His and Anthony’s work has been proven to be true at every turn – and it’s interesting that these personal attacks are surfacing only now, as the facts become more dangerous for the individuals involved. BuzzFeed News stands by this story 100%,” the statement said.
On his way to Dover to oversee the arrival of four Americans killed this week in an ISIS attack in Syria and ahead of an announcement today about his proposed border wall and ongoing government shutdown, President Donald Trump weighed in on Thursday…