BuzzFeed Reels After Lackluster First-Ever Earnings Report

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BuzzFeed, known for such internet classics as “21 Surprising Facts Famous Celebs Wish You Didn’t Know About Them,” may have material for a new listicle after its very first earnings report as a public company on Tuesday: “1 Digital Media Company That Should Not Have Gone Public.”

After the company missed on revenue expectations, knives are out for BuzzFeed News, the prestige-chasing, loss-leading, hard news-driven, Pulitzer Prize-winning offshoot of the clickbait mothership. A trio of top editors are departing and several other journalists are being offered buyouts, as influential shareholders are pushing for the entire newsroom to shutter, according to CNBC.

Numbers Game

Posting fourth-quarter revenue of $145.7 million and total earnings in 2021 at $308M, Buzzfeed whiffed on the expectations it floated while courting investors ahead of its disastrous SPAC merger in December, during which 94% of the money raised had been withdrawn.

Its stock price is down more than 40% since listing, now hovering around $5 a share, and antsy remaining investors are demanding blood. CEO Jonah Peretti is thus far mostly resisting the dramatic calls to action, and says he sees a light at the end of the tunnel:

  • Peretti believes he can make the newsroom, which loses roughly $10M a year, profitable by focusing less on hard news — staffers being offered buyouts only include those working on investigations, inequality, politics or science — and more on culture, entertainment, celebrity, and life on the Internet. Additionally, BuzzFeed will trim 1.7% of staff, or 25 employees, elsewhere in the organization.
  • The plan follows the template used after BuzzFeed purchased the Huffington Post in 2020, when 70 HuffPo staffers were let go as a way to, as Peretti put it “manage our costs and ensure BuzzFeed — and HuffPost — are set up to prosper long-term.”

Buzzkill: The New York Times reported late last year that Vice and Vox were considering IPOs, but both backed off after seeing the results of BuzzFeed’s.

Could Be Worse: Even with its financial hiccups, BuzzFeed’s market capitalization is nearly $200M more than Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain with 250 dailies.