HuffPost officially merged with BuzzFeed on February 16. Less than a month later, the site’s staff is being dramatically cut.
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced Tuesday that 47 of the 190 HuffPost employees in the US would be laid off and that HuffPost Canada would be shut down, affecting 23 employees. HuffPost union said the cuts in the US affected 33 of its members, representing 30% of its unit.
Peretti told staffers that the cuts were made to manage costs, adding that HuffPost’s losses exceeded $20 million last year and would be estimated to be similar this year.
“Though BuzzFeed is a profitable company, we don’t have the resources to support another two years of losses. The most responsible thing we can do is to manage our costs and ensure BuzzFeed — and HuffPost — are set up to prosper long-term.” Peretti said. “That’s why we’ve made the difficult decision to restructure HuffPost to reach profitability more quickly. Our goal is for HuffPost to break even this year.”
Verizon (VZ) Media Group, the media division of Verizon (VZ) which also includes Yahoo and TechCrunch, agreed to sell HuffPost in November. Peretti was a cofounder of HuffPost, which launched in 2005 and grew to prominence for covering global news events for a digital audience. In recent years, Peretti has expressed a need to unite digital media companies to better compete for ad dollars with the tech platforms like Facebook and Google.
“[W]e aren’t buying HuffPost because of its illustrious past or my personal connection; we pursued this opportunity because we are excited about the future of HuffPost and all the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come,” Peretti wrote in an internal memo at the time of the sale.
Peretti and Verizon said at the time of the sale that HuffPost and BuzzFeed would be kept separate and no layoffs were immediately announced. Still, HuffPost staffers told CNN Business that they feared layoffs and other labor issues following their first meeting with Peretti. Both HuffPost and BuzzFeed have experienced several rounds of layoffs over the years. BuzzFeed laid off some staffers in May of last year.
HuffPost union criticized management for its decision in a statement on Tuesday.
“We are devastated and infuriated, particularly after an exhausting year of covering a pandemic and working from home,” HuffPost union said on Tuesday. “This is also happening less than a month after HuffPost was acquired by BuzzFeed. We never got a fair shot to prove our worth.”
HuffPost has operated without an editor in chief since Lydia Polgreen left in March of the last year to work at Gimlet Media. Peretti told staffers Tuesday that the company is in the final interview stages for a new top editor and expects to name a successor in the coming weeks.
“Some extraordinary journalists lost their jobs today. You should hire them,” Polgreen tweeted on Tuesday. “This is a remarkable team that has been through a lot, and it breaks my heart to see them face the axe again.”
Among the layoffs were journalists with long tenures at HuffPost, including senior reporter Emily Peck, senior reporter Emma Gray and senior reporter Melissa Jeltsen who all spent nearly a decade there. Peck reported on gender inequality and other business topics, Gray reported on the intersection of gender, culture and politics and Jeltsen reported on domestic violence.
Peretti also announced that Hillary Frey, executive editor of HuffPost, and Louise Roug, executive editor for international, will be leaving the company.