They are the two most famous digital-only news sites, but when BuzzFeed announced it would be buying the HuffPost last November, it was never likely to be good news for head count.
Few at HuffPost would have guessed, though, that within four months the UK news operation would be closing down. The announcement came just a week after 47 job losses were signalled at HuffPost’s US newsroom and its Canadian operation was shuttered.
The latest development means that of the 16 editorial staff at HuffPost’s London operation, only four are guaranteed to remain in post. Journalists at the news site have complained there was no consultation with staff. The surprise announcement was made in the middle of a teleconference to discuss the implications on the UK of developments in America.
The news of those 47 redundancies in the US was also unexpected and broken by BuzzFeed’s chief executive, Jonah Peretti, in a virtual staff meeting. According to the site’s story on its own announcement, Peretti told employees that BuzzFeed was profitable but after a very hard year for news sites, the business could not afford to cover HuffPost’s $20m loss in the previous year.
BuzzFeed had already made large job cuts the year before it bought HuffPost. In 2019, it laid off 43 journalists and closed its news offices in the UK and Australia in the same year.
Journalists angered by lack of consultation
It will come as little surprise that The Guardian is reporting HuffPost staff are not happy.
In both the UK and the US there are complaints about a lack of any consultation, although some is reportedly planned. Staff were particularly stunned by the Canadian site being shut down before they were consulted.
A statement from the union representing workers at HuffPost in the US said employees were “devastated and infuriated” that the news was broken after an “exhausting year of covering the pandemic from home.” The statement confirmed that 33 people were laid off.
BuzzFeed’s purchase of HuffPost last year is part of a wider consolidation in digital news outlets. It came a year after Vox Media bought New York Media and Vice Media bought Refinery29. The mergers are widely considered a sign that digital news operations are struggling to make ends meet in a media landscape dominated by Facebook and Google.
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