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 comes word that the one-time poster child for pure-digital growth plans to lay off a reported 200 staffers, or 15% of its work force.
Co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti sent a memo to staff this afternoon announcing the job cuts, which will hit the web content and international units including the Ben Smith-led news division beginning next week.
“Over the past few months, we’ve done extensive work examining the trends in our business and the evolving economics of the digital platforms,” he wrote (read the memo in full below). “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.”
This will mark the third round of cuts at the digital news producer in 14 months, following layoffs in November 2017 and in September. The former consisted of about 100 job losses, mainly in its “business unit.”
The comes in the wake of BuzzFeed’s bombshell report that citing two unnamed law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the Trump Tower Moscow effort. It claimed that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress under oath about negotiations with Russians to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, saying they had ended before the primaries in the U.S. presidential election. As the news media feasted on the report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office put out a rare statement that read, “BuzzFeed’s descriptions of specific statements to the special counsel office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony, are not accurate.”
That came after Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani called the report “categorically false” and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it “absolutely ridiculous.” The news org continued to stand by its reporting, however.
Here’s Peretti’s full memo:
I’m writing with sad news: we are doing layoffs at BuzzFeed next week. We will be making a 15% overall reduction in headcount across the company. I’m sending this tonight because I wanted you to hear it from me directly instead of from the press.
Over the past few months, we’ve done extensive work examining the trends in our business and the evolving economics of the digital platforms. 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.
I’m so proud of what our team accomplished over the last year, including diversifying our revenue, and growing our business double digits. Unfortunately, revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run. The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again. These changes will allow us to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.
I’ll share more about our future structure in a few days, but today I want to focus on what will be a difficult week, especially for the people who are leaving the company. These are talented people, friends, and valued colleagues, who’ve made huge contributions to our success, and who’ve done nothing wrong. Even though I’m confident this is the right business decision, it is upsetting and disappointing.
On a personal note, I’ve never thought about my job as “just business.” I care about the people at BuzzFeed more than anything other than my family. This will be a tough week for all of us and I realize it will be much worse for the people losing their jobs. To them, I want to say thank you, I’m sorry our work together is ending this way, and I hope we get to work together again in the future. Our loss will be to the benefit of other organizations where I know you will go on to make formidable contributions.
We will be back to you with specifics on the process by Monday at the latest. Thank you all in advance for your compassion and kindness as we go through this process.