As BuzzFeed’s publicly-traded stock has gone from a 52-week high of $14.77 to just shy of $4, it’s not just money that has disappeared.
Increasingly, progressive news and views are disappearing from the site’s news channel in an effort to stop the flow of red ink that’s threatening to kill the company.
Just after the defeat of former President Donald Trump, in November 2020, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said that his company’s subscription-free, digital news platform would have “a big impact …on voters, on the broad public, on young people, on the more diverse rising generation of millennials and Gen Z,” according to an interview he gave to Vox.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity to serve those consumers. And not all of them are going to be subscribers to any publication,” Peretti told Vox.
The idea, at least according to Columbia journalism professor Thomas Edsall, was to expose a high-volume clickbait audience, with real hard news and progressive information, thereby swaying the general public with progressive news and views.
And for a while, fueled by Facebook, Google and other social media referrals, it worked.
But when Facebook and Google changed their business models to no longer favor content creators like BuzzFeed, Peretti realized that BuzzFeed had to make it on its own.
Accordingly, BuzzFeed engineered a series of acquisitions and financings in order to further its pursuit of a global progressive content empire.
But even as it grew, cost-cutting measures utilizing economies of scale enjoyed by the combined operations of, say, BuzzFeed News and HuffPost, raised hints of future trouble to come.
Layoffs and furloughs and layoffs of those furloughed became more common.
A year and a half later, it’s safe to say that the vision that Peretti laid out in November 2020 is in trouble, as is the company BuzzFeed itself, as the appetite for consuming progressive news failed to mesh with the clickbait audience upon which BuzzFeed was originally founded.
BuzzFeed and its news outlet, BuzzFeed News, it seems, are no longer in the progressive content business as the parent company has shifted to commerce and now looks at news operations as just an expense item.
They are both victims of public disenchantment with progressive journalism in general and, ironically, victims of President Joe Biden’s progressive economic policies, which many feel have fueled stagflation in the U.S.
Stagflation creates a very difficult operating environment for companies that rely either on advertising dollars or on e-commerce to make a living, as does BuzzFeed.
So, on Monday, the company reported a disastrous financial quarter via a conference call. This following a previous disastrous quarter. Two disastrous quarters in a row is more than just trouble.
On Wall Street, it’s a trend.
BuzzFeed reported $91.6 million in revenue for the first quarter, short of analyst expectations, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Yes, that’s how far BuzzFeed has fallen: CNBC no longer features reports on this would-be penny stock company.
The top coverage for BuzzFeed’s financial conference calls is from the Hollywood Reporter.
Commerce revenue declined 27 percent year-over-year, and the company lost an amazing $44.6 million, losses that are up 294 percent over last year, said the company via conference call.
Peretti cited “rising inflation, ongoing supply chain disruptions, geopolitical uncertainty, and increased data privacy regulations,” according to a transcript of the call.
He might as well have called out President Joe Biden by name.
“Rightly or wrongly, fair or not fair, all digital media companies will be significantly tethered to BuzzFeed,” Bryan Goldberg, the CEO of Bustle Digital Group told Vox’s ReCode last year. “The fate of BuzzFeed is going to determine the fortunes of a lot of other companies.”
Now those fortunes are decidedly ill for progressive news outlets, resulting in the further downsizing of the newsroom staff at BuzzFeed.
“The layoffs came two months after BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced in an earnings call that the editorial team would be downsizing, cutting between 25 and 50 roles by way of voluntary buyout,” according to Gawker.
So, gone From BuzzFeed News are the angry screeds demanding racial and economic justice.
They have been replaced by clickbait that is worthy of celebrity gossip magazines: Amber Heard, Khloe Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner, Haley Bieber and Lance Bass, are all names appearing above the fold.
So, it appears that there are very good reasons why the Hollywood Reporter would feature BuzzFeed news earnings so highly, and CNBC, not so much.
BuzzFeed is no longer the progressive icon run by a cofounder of HuffPost attempting to sell you on progressive ideals.
It’s a clickbait and gossip rag that’s trying to sell you “the first and only… orally disintegrating tablet of glycopyrrolate,” according to the advertisement at the fold on BuzzFeedNews.com.
It’s a letdown for progressives for this one’s proud franchise to go back to hawing kitten videos and celebrity gossip, but perhaps it’s a relief to everyone else, especially those who need the first and only orally disintegrating tablet of glycopyrrolate, whatever that is.