BuzzFeed News announced on Tuesday that its editor in chief is stepping down and the company is offering buyouts to eligible staffers that could turn into layoffs.
Editor in Chief Mark Schoofs, who replaced Ben Smith in 2020, announced his decision to the newsroom Tuesday. Samantha Henig, BuzzFeed’s vice president of news strategy and operations, will be serving as interim top editor.
BuzzFeed News is also losing deputy editor in chief Tom Namako, who announced Tuesday that he will be the new executive editor of NBC News Digital. Ariel Kaminer, executive editor for Investigations and Tech, is also exiting.
BuzzFeed went public via SPAC in December. In its first earnings call as a public company, which also happened Tuesday, CEO Peretti said the company as a whole has seen higher audience engagement than ever before. The media organization also remained profitable for the second year in a row.
But the news division of BuzzFeed has not been as successful. The changes announced Tuesday are part of what Peretti said in a staff memo are “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.”
BuzzFeed Video and Complex Editorial, which BuzzFeed acquired when it went public, are also downsizing “to better align with audience and industry trends,” according to Matt Mittenthal, VP of Communications at BuzzFeed. In total, about 1.7% of the company’s workforce will be impacted by Tuesday’s announcements, Mittenthal told CNN Business.
Employees on BuzzFeed News’ Investigations, Politics, Inequality and Science teams will be able to participate in the buyouts, so long as they have been with the company for a year or more, according to the memo. Employees have a month to act on the offer.
It has been a tumultuous few months for BuzzFeed. Upon going public, BuzzFeed raised about $16 million from the SPAC deal, which was far less than anticipated after a vast majority of investors withdrew, as The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. In March, the New York Times reported that current and former employees filed formal complaints against BuzzFeed for allegedly bungling its stock market debut and preventing employees from selling shares at a higher price.
In order to achieve future financial goals, “BuzzFeed News will need to get smaller,” Peretti said in his memo to staff, “and to prioritize the areas of coverage our audience connects with most.” In addition to leadership changes and cuts, there will be a new dedicated business development group in the news arm and a content priority placed on “investments around coverage of the biggest news of the day, culture and entertainment, celebrity, and life on the Internet,” Peretti said on Tuesday’s earnings call.
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